If there is a such thing as any kind of a silver lining to MLB's hiatus, it's that the break has allowed more time for injured players to rehab and get back to full strength.
For Yankees lefty James Paxton, that seems to be exactly the case. After undergoing back surgery in February, Paxton now says that he expects to be a full go if and when the 2020 MLB season begins.
"I think I've thrown probably 12-14 bullpens," Paxton told YES Network. "It's feeling really good. Back is a non-issue, 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."
On Feb. 5, Paxton underwent a microscopic lumbar discectomy with removal of a peridiscal cyst, a procedure that was expected to sideline him for three to four months.
Having a fully healthy Paxton should be a huge boost for the Yankees, as he figures to pair with Gerrit Cole to form one of the best one-two punches of any starting rotation in baseball.
After coming over in a trade from Seattle last offseason, Paxton was stellar in his first season with the Yankees, posting a 15-6 record to go along with a 3.82 ERA and 186 strikeouts. He also had a strong playoff performance for the Yankees, particularly in the ALCS against Houston, when he allowed just two earned runs in 8.1 innings during his two starts.
Paxton told YES that he was a bit anxious to resume throwing again after surgery, but he's been very happy with how his body has responded.
"For sure, I was nervous going into it," Paxton said. "I was feeling really good playing catch, so that was a really good sign, but it's always different when you get on the mound. So I was really interested to see how it was going to feel the next day and it turned out feeling really good.
"I never really had too many issues with the back after I kind of got going. But it's been getting better and better. The velocity is getting better and better, breaking balls and stuff like that, getting a feel for my pitches, so everything is going really well."
With the surgery behind him, Paxton is now in the same position as all other MLB players, just waiting for the day MLB and the players union can come to an agreement and baseball can safely resume.
"I'm really excited to get back out there, feel the adrenaline, get some competition," Paxton said. "It will be great once we get going again."