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Lefthander James Paxton thrilled to join Yankees, excited about pressure to win

James Paxton delivers a pitch against the Yankees

James Paxton delivers a pitch against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, June 21, 2018. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

TAMPA, Fla. — James Paxton was a significant part of the Mariners’ “everyone must go” offseason, and he had nothing bad to say about the organization. But the lefthander used the word “excited” multiple times in describing his thoughts about his new team, whose 2019 goals and expectations could not be more different from Seattle’s.

“I feel like playing with the Yankees, you’re expected to win,” Paxton said Thursday after a workout at the minor-league complex. “It’s kind of World Series or bust for Yankees fans, and I’m excited about having that pressure and just being on a team so committed to winning.”

The Yankees acquired Paxton Nov. 19 in exchange for lefthander Justus Sheffield, one of their top pitching prospects; righthanded prospect Erik Swanson and minor-league outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams.

Paxton, 30, was 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA in 28 starts last season. He threw a no-hitter May 8 at Toronto and struck out 208 in 160 1⁄3 innings, posting eight starts with at least 10 strikeouts, tied for sixth in MLB.

“I think there’s an upside there,” pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. “He certainly has the ability and he’s shown that. It’s a matter of one, staying healthy, and just the consistency. He’s got a chance to really make a nice addition to the staff.”

Paxton can’t wait to join a rotation that includes Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ and CC Sabathia.

“I think we’re going to be really good,” said Paxton, who is scheduled to throw to Gary Sanchez in a bullpen session Friday. “I played catch with Severino my first day out. Man, the ball jumps out of his hand something special. He’s a different animal. J.A. Happ, I played with him in Seattle, he’s going to be awesome. Tanaka’s always nasty and then you’ve 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 trying to learn from what he does. I’m excited to meet him in person.”

Paxton also is bullish on the Yankees’ bullpen, which features Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Zack Britton, Chad Green and Adam Ottavino.

“It’s going to be awesome,” Paxton said. “So talented out there. We have so many guys who have closer stuff. It’s going to feel really good handing the ball over to those guys.”

Not surprisingly, Paxton was equally enthused about not having to challenge the Yankees’ offense anymore. He faced it twice — both times last season — and took the loss twice, allowing eight runs in 11 innings.

“I’m excited not to have to face some of those guys again,” he said with a smile. “We’ve got some talented guys on this team, and I’m looking forward to being on the same team. Think we’re going to score a lot of runs.”

Notes & quotes: Britton tweeted that his first name now will be spelled with a “k” at the end. “Breaking News: I will be going by my legal name “Zack” instead of my stage name “Zach.” Everyone continue to breathe normally #beenlivingalie #birthcertfail.” . . . Didi Gregorius, recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, arrived. His morning workout included hitting one-handed in the cage. He said he expects to increase his workload next week … Also working out were Greg Bird, Luke Voit, Green, Tommy Kahnle, Jonathan Holder, Gleyber Torres, Estevan Florial, Clint Frazier, Sanchez and Happ.


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