Paxton went 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA before being shut down after feeling pain behind his left shoulder in the sixth inning of his second start. Initial estimates were that he could be out 6-8 weeks, but the 25-year-old said the news has been positive this week.
"He said I was progressing nicely," Paxton said. "Based on my strength and how everything feels, he was really pleased. He said just keep on progressing and see how things go."
With Hisashi Iwakuma set to make his first Minor League rehab start on Sunday for Triple-A Tacoma in Las Vegas, manager Lloyd McClendon hopes the tide is starting to turn for a beleaguered rotation that also has Blake Beavan on the 15-day DL.
"It's kind of tough when you're getting ready for a game and you see your Nos. 2, 3 and 4 starters walk by and they're all waving as they go sit down at the end of the dugout on the DL," McClendon acknowledged. "But yeah, we can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel a little bit."
That light could provide options, and one being pondered is the future of Erasmo Ramirez in the rotation after he lost his third straight decision on Tuesday and is 1-3 with a 6.75 ERA in five starts.
Asked if Ramirez's four straight poor outings were leading to consideration of change there, McClendon said: "I would say that's a fair assessment, yeah. I'm not sure what we're going to do as of right now, but yeah."
Iwakuma's return clearly could play a factor there. The All-Star right-hander will need at least the one Minor League start on Sunday, but with off-days on Thursday and Monday, the Mariners could skip Ramirez's next start and then have Iwakuma ready to slot in by the Astros series in Houston on May 2-4 if all goes well.
Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.