Yankees News: James Paxton 'Back to Full Strength' After Surgery on Back Injury

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMay 23, 2020

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 18: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT)  James Paxton #65 of the New York Yankees in action against the Houston Astros in game five of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 18, 2019 in New York City. The Yankees defeated the Astros 4-1. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

New York Yankees starting pitcher James Paxton will be ready to go if and when the 2020 MLB season begins.

In an interview with the YES Network (h/t ESPN), Paxton said Friday that he's "back to full strength" after undergoing back surgery in February. Paxton specifically underwent a microscopic lumbar discectomy to repair a herniated disk and remove a peridiscal cyst.

With regard to his current condition, Paxton said: "I think I've thrown probably 12, 14 bullpens. It's my back feeling really good. My 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."

Paxton was originally expected to miss at least the first couple of months of the 2020 season, but since the coronavirus pandemic has prevented it from starting, he ultimately won't miss any time.

The 31-year-old veteran suggested he is happy with how his rehab has gone thus far:

"I was nervous going into it. ... 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. I've seen some good results there, so I'm continuing to try and improve over this time, even though we're not playing."

Paxton spent the first six years of his MLB career with the Seattle Mariners before getting traded to the Yanks last offseason for prospects Justus Sheffield, Dom Thompson-Williams and Erik Swanson.

While Paxton's first season in pinstripes was shaky at times, he turned out to be New York's most reliable starter, going 15-6 with a 3.82 ERA and 1.28 WHIP, while striking out 186 batters in 150.2 innings. Paxton also made three playoff starts, going 1-0 with a 3.46 ERA.

Paxton was at his best late in the season, as he went 10-0 in August and September combined. In five September starts, he went 4-0 with a 1.05 ERA and 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings.

The Yankees signed Gerrit Cole to be the staff ace this offseason, but the big lefty from Canada will still be a key part of rotation, especially with Luis Severino set to miss the entire 2020 campaign because of Tommy John surgery.

With Cole, Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka spearheading the rotation to go along with a top-flight lineup and bullpen, the Yankees should be favored to win their 28th World Series title should the 2020 season occur in some form.