James Paxton has spent all six of his major-league seasons — 102 games — in Seattle. He has never pitched in the playoffs or even during a postseason push. His lone outing in New York was a five-inning start at Yankee Stadium in June. It didn’t go well.
No matter. Paxton, the Yankees’ newest front-line starter after a trade with the Mariners on Monday, says he is ready for the bright lights of the big city.
“It’ll be a new experience for me to feel that much pressure, but I feel like I’m ready for it,” Paxton said Tuesday on WFAN. “I’ve kind of built up here the last few years, gaining experience and playing in some bigger games here and there. I feel like I’m ready to go.
“New York expects to win. If you’re not first, you’re the worst. I think New York is all about winning championships. That’s what they expect and that’s what we’re trying to build in New York.”
Expectations will be particularly high for the Yankees in 2019 after 100 wins and an ALDS loss against the rival Red Sox this past season was considered a disappointment.
General manager Brian Cashman, in explaining his rationale behind the trade, emphasized Monday night that the Yankees need to get significantly better because the world champions from the past two years are in their division (Boston) and in their league (Houston Astros, winners of 103 games in 2018).
The Yankees figure Paxton will be a part of that. In a dozen starts against the Astros, his old AL West foe, Paxton owns a 2.89 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. In more limited action against the Red Sox — four starts — he has a 2.49 ERA and 0.91 WHIP.
Paxton knows that none of those numbers — or the Yankees’ win total — will matter unless the season ends with a title.
“I’m honored to be asked to put on the pinstripes and help the Yankees go for [World Series championship] No. 28,” Paxton said on WFAN, flexing his knowledge of the Yankees’ title total. “[That the Yankees] think I’m the guy that can help close that gap between Boston and put us in position to win a championship is huge. It shows a lot of confidence in me, and I’m just really excited to be a part of it all.”
And then there are the skeptics, those who saw what Sonny Gray did in Oakland (3.42 ERA, All-Star in 2015) compared to what he has done in the Bronx (4.51 ERA, including 4.90 last season) and aren’t sure what Paxton will provide. Gray’s 2018 went so poorly that Cashman has spoken openly of deciding to trade him — there hasn’t been a deal — which is a rare degree of transparency from a baseball executive.
Paxton hears that. But, he says, “Everyone’s different.”
“I’m going to bring everything I’ve got,” Paxton said on ESPN New York 98.7. “I put everything I’ve got into this game, and you’re going to get everything I have.”
Notes & quotes: The Yankees added righthander Joe Harvey, 26, to the 40-man roster on Tuesday prior to the deadline to set the roster before the Rule 5 draft next month. In 43 relief appearances for Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season, Harvey had a 1.67 ERA and 0.99 WHIP, striking out 68 batters in 59 1/3 innings ... The club also traded a minor-league righthanded reliever to the Rockies for another, acquiring Jefry Valdez and giving up Jordan Foley. Valdez, 23, had a 5.82 ERA in 27 Low-A games in 2018, striking out 45 in 34 innings. Foley, 25, had a 2.98 ERA in 37 games with Trenton.