James Paxton understands being a Yankee carries high expectations, and he believes New York's rotation can live up to the hype.
Paxton was perhaps the Yankees' biggest offseason move, coming to New York in a trade with the Mariners, and is expected to be one of the Yankees' top two pitchers alongside Luis Severino. And he knows the team is in a win-now mode.
"I feel like playing with the Yankees, you're expected to win," Paxton said, according to the New York Post's Greg Joyce. "It's World Series or bust for Yankees fans, and I'm excited about having that pressure and being on a team that's so committed to winning."
No, the Yankees haven't signed Manny Machado, instead acquiring Troy Tulowitzki and DJ LeMahieu. And while they bolstered their bullpen with Zack Britton and Adam Ottavino, they didn't sign starting pitchers Patrick Corbin or Nathan Eovaldi.
But Paxton is a major upgrade in a Yankees rotation that had a 3.78 ERA, which trailed the Astros, Rays, Red Sox and Indians among American League teams in 2018. With he and Severino at the front of the rotation, the Yankees can trot out Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ and CC Sabathia at 3-4-5, and Paxton believes their rotation is now one of the team's biggest strengths.
"I think we're going to be really good," he said. "I played catch with Severino my first day out and, man, the ball jumps out of his hands, something special. He's a different animal. The other guys, J.A. Happ, I talked with him the other day. I played with him in Seattle. He's going to be awesome. Tanaka's always nasty. ... And then you got CC, who's just a salty vet who knows exactly what he's doing out there. I'm really looking forward to learning from him. I've watched him throughout my career, just trying to learn from what he does. So I'm excited to get to meet him in person."
Paxton, 30, went 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA in 28 starts last season, and is 41-26 with a 3.42 ERA in his six-year career. Though injuries are a concern for Paxton -- he has pitched more than 125 innings just twice in his career -- pitching coach Larry Rothschild believes Paxton, who is under team control through 2020, can be one of the Yankees' top pitchers in 2019.
"I think there's an upside there," Rothschild said. "He certainly has the ability, he's shown that. It's just a matter of one, staying healthy, and the consistency. He's got a chance to really make a nice addition to this staff."
The Yankees did give up a lot to acquire Paxton, dealing top prospect Justus Sheffield and two other prospects. But he is doing all he can to get a head start for the season.
He arrived at the Yankees' minor league complex in Tampa, Florida, six days before pitchers and catchers are required to report for spring training. He is also scheduled to throw to Gary Sanchez on Friday.
"They got some talented guys on this team," Paxton said.