When the Yankees announced on Wednesday that James Paxton would miss 3-4 months due to back surgery, the news certainly deflated Yankees fans who have been hoping to see Paxton and Gerrit Cole in action at the top of the rotation.
But might Paxton's timeline for return be different than original anticipated?
According to MLB Network's Jon Heyman, Paxton's agent Scott Boras believes that the left-hander will be back sooner than previously thought, saying "We're very optimistic he'll be back in the first third of the season."
Paxton, who went 15-6 with a 3.82 ERA and 186 strikeouts in his first season as a Yankee, underwent a microscopic lumbar discectomy with removal of a peridiscal cyst on Wednesday.
The 31-year-old agreed to a one-year, $12.5 million contract with the Yankees earlier this offseason to avoid salary arbitration.
Even if Paxton is to miss significant time, the Yankees are still slated to enter the 2020 season with a terrific starting pitching rotation, consisting of Cole, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, and likely J.A. Happ or Jordan Montgomery as the team's fifth starter. Domingo German could also play a factor late in the year, after serving the remainder of his suspension for a domestic incident last season.