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AL East Notes: Paxton, Rays, Iglesias, Martin

After undergoing back surgery in early February, Yankees southpaw James Paxton was given a timeline of three-to-four months before he could return to the field.  As we approach the end of that estimated recovery period, Paxton described his back as “a non-issue” in an interview Friday on the YES Network (hat tip to ESPN.com).  “I feel totally healthy, so I’ll be ready to go as soon as the season comes about….I think I’m back to full strength,” Paxton said, noting that he has already thrown an estimated 12-14 bullpen sessions.

If there is any silver lining for the Yankees in this league-wide shutdown, the lack of game action has allowed several injured Yankees to recover without missing any time.  As such, should the 2020 season begin in early July as rumored, New York could have Paxton, Giancarlo Stanton, and possibly Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks all available for the roster.  It will be a particularly important season for Paxton, who is scheduled to hit free agency this winter and projects to be one of the top starters available on the open market.  While the back surgery only adds to Paxton’s not-insubstantial injury history, a big performance in whatever consists of a 2020 season would certainly help Paxton’s case at a healthy multi-year contract in the offseason.

More from the AL East…

  • Rays players will begin limited workouts at Tropicana Field on Monday, and the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin details how the club will take a very measured approach to restarting its preseason preparations.  “There’s a lot more downside to moving too fast than too slow,” GM Erik Neander said.  “Our priority remains the health and safety of our players, staff and their families.  We will learn a lot through this initial, conservative step, and that will serve us well as we continue to ramp up.”  Only small groupings of players will be allowed to work out or use the field at any given time, rather than the entire roster; the Rays will take some time before deciding whether to bring Yoshitomo Tsutsugo and Ji-Man Choi back to North America.
  • The Orioles inked Jose Iglesias to a one-year deal last winter with the expectation that the veteran could help both on the field and in the clubhouse.  Third base coach and infield instructor Jose Flores tells Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com that Iglesias already started to develop a mentor/student relationship with young shortstop Richie Martin.  “Josie shares a lot of his ideas, we share with Richie, and he seems to take all that into play,” Flores said.  “And I think Richie has actually become a better infielder just by having Josie working out with him during the course of Spring Training.”
  • It remains to be seen if Martin will make Baltimore’s MLB roster if/when the season gets underway, as while the former Rule 5 pick definitely wasn’t ready for big league competition last year, Martin won’t be able to get any further minor league seasoning if there isn’t any official minor league ball in 2020.  Therefore, Martin could wind up on the “taxi squad” rumored to be planned in support of teams’ Major League rosters, or an expanded 30-man roster could provide room for Martin to land more playing time with the Orioles.  Flores noted that Martin had been playing some second base during spring camp in order to help boost his versatility and chances of making the club as a backup infielder.  For what it’s worth, Martin had also been hitting well before Spring Training was shut down, with an .869 OPS over 30 plate appearances.

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