All eyes on Paxton in first bullpen session

All eyes on Paxton in first bullpen session

All eyes on Paxton in first bullpen session
PEORIA, Ariz. -- James Paxton, the 22-year-old left-hander who ended a near-two-year holdout last week by agreeing to a contract with the Mariners, threw his first bullpen session Friday as general manager Jack Zduriencik, manager Eric Wedge, pitching coach Carl Willis and many of the club's officials looked on.

Paxton threw a breaking pitch in the dirt at one point, prompting bullpen catcher Jason Phillips to tell him, "Relax, nobody's watching."

That drew a laugh from Paxton, who threw 30 pitches and said he was on schedule to throw a few more bullpens before getting into batting practice and simulated games as his progression begins.

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"Nice," Zduriencik said after watching his newest pitcher throw. "Big body, good arm, good breaking ball."

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Paxton said he wasn't surprised by being the center of attention in his first step onto a mound with the Mariners, even if that mound was in the bullpen.

"I kind of figured there'd be some people watching the new guy and seeing how he throws," the former Kentucky standout said. "It was exciting. A lot of fun. I enjoyed it.

"It's all part of it. You can't hide from it. It's all there. You just have to accept it and go out there and do what you do."

Paxton said the Mariners wanted him to just throw an easy first session, but he noted, "There is no such thing as going 80 percent. But it felt real good. I was happy with where I was.

"I thought my arm worked real well for not throwing a bullpen in two weeks. I spotted up the fastball a little bit. I'm trying to find the release point on my other breaking pitches and changeup, but that will all come in time. I'm not really worried about that."

According to Willis, it was a good first step.

"It was very impressive given he hasn't been on a mound in a couple weeks," he said. "I was quite pleased with his ability to command his fastball as well as he did. Those secondary pitches will come as he gets more reps.

"Obviously, to have a good number of his future teammates watching him for the first time, as well as the front office and media, it's a lot of pressure for a kid who three weeks ago didn't have a contract. I thought he handled that really well, and that speaks to his focus and ability."