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VANCOUVER, B.C – Please visit Red Nation Online for my Whitecaps vs Columbus Crew match report.


Seattle Mariners Pitcher James Paxton is ready for the 2015 MLS season.

Seattle Mariners Pitcher James Paxton is ready for the 2015 MLB season.

VANCOUVER, B.C – The Seattle Mariners are expected to do big things this season as many prognosticators have picked Seattle to win the American League West and quite possibly make the World Series. The pitching rotation has always been a strong point for the Mariners and this season Ladner, B.C. native James Paxton will be relied on heavily to deliver a tremendous breakthrough season.

Paxton will make his season debut against the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim tonight at Safeco Field. The Mariners opened the season with a dominating 4-1 victory over the Angles thanks in part to a brilliant showing by Felix Hernandez. His line included 7 innings pitched and 10 strikeouts. While Paxton won’t step into the AL Cy Young calibre shoes that King Felix has. He does hope to stay healthy and provide the Mariners with a chance to win each and every time he takes the mound.

“My goal is to stay healthy for the entire season and make all of my starts the team wants me to make, and pitch as many innings as possible, and give our team a chance to win.”

The 26 year-old missed a large chunk of the 2014 season with a lingering lat muscle injury. Paxton made a pair of starts last April before being sidelined until August 2. The lat injury that James Paxton suffered does not put him at a greater risk for the increasingly popular Tommy John surgery.

“No, I don’t think so. I’ve worked really hard with our trainers and I’ve been doing a bunch of stretches and workouts to strengthen that area. I’ve got everything ready to go for the season.”

During the early stages of Mariners spring training health was not in the cards for Paxton. An agility drill caused Paxton to trip and fall. He injured both of his arms. X-rays came back negative, but it took almost a month to fully recover. In a trio of spring training starts on March 22, March 27, and April 1, Paxton posted the following combined numbers.

10.1 innings pitched, 19 H, 12 R, 9 ER, 5 BB, and 6 strikeouts.

If Paxton is going to be successful this season he will rely on four special pitches when he is on the mound. His fastball and curveball will remain as his bread and butter and he’s also working on something new.

“My go to pitch is my fastball. I’m kind of a power-fastball guy and my curveball has been a big pitch for me so far. I’m also looking to continue to get my changeup and cutter better.”

The six-foot and four-inch ‘southpaw’ would like to cut down on his walks. Working the inner and outside corners of a strike zone can only work to a pitchers advantage if he has excellent control. Paxton feels that he has a handle on the amount of walks he gives up much more now than in his past.

“I think that’s something that I really worked hard at. In the minor leagues I struggled with my location a little bit, but I’ve made some adjustments in the past couple of years. I feel like I’ve really made my delivery compact and easier to repeat. I’ve gotten a lot better at lowering my pitch count in games.”

The former Kentucky Wildcat pitcher can always count on family and friends to support him for all of his home starts at Safeco Field. Growing up in Ladner, Paxton cheered for the Mariners, his favourite player was fellow left-hander, Randy Johnson. Now that Paxton has made the show he always has a lot of fun pitching for those who have supported him along the way to where he is now.

“It’s very special for me because every start that I have down in Seattle, my parents come down, family comes down, and friends. It’s always a lot of fun. My parents are always there, my brother is there most of the time, and I’ve also got family in Seattle that come to the games. I’ve always got friends that are wanting to come down and watch me pitch. They usually come down in groups. There’s usually quite a few.”

The Mariners offense is expected to be even better than what was shown last season. All-star second baseman Robinson Cano will have some protection in the Mariners lineup thanks to the December signing of Nelson Cruz. Seattle General Manager Jack Zduriencik signed Cruz to a $57 million, four-year contract. James Paxton knows this is a complete game changer for the Mariners.

“I’m very excited. It’s going to be great to have a power bat like that in our lineup. I really think it’s going to complete our lineup and make it one of the most dangerous ones to face for other teams.”

Seattle pitching has always been outstanding with Felix Hernandez leading the way. James Paxton and Taijuan Walker should take a huge step in 2015 to help the Mariners get back to the post-season. Scoring runs has always been a question mark, but this year that won’t be the case. The Mariners will channel the Seattle Seahawks by making the playoffs and going on a long post-season run.

Notes: James Paxton notes that the toughest batter he has faced in his career is Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers. ‘Miggy’ is three for five with a pair of doubles and a walk against Paxton.


Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman (Injured) Roberto Alomar (Hall of Fame Inductee), Russell Martin, and Drew Hutchison in Vancouver, B.C.

Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman (ACL Injury) Roberto Alomar (Hall of Fame Inductee), Russell Martin, and Drew Hutchison in Vancouver, B.C. on January 23, 2015.

VANCOUVER, B.C – Today is Opening Day and the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays are all set to take to the field for the start of the season. The Blue Jays visit the New York Yankees and Manager John Gibbons has given the ball to Drew Hutchison for a showdown against the Jeter-less Yankees. The additions of Russell Martin, Josh Donaldson, and Justin Smoak will improve the Blue Jays offense and win total. The key to success will be with the bullpen and starting rotation. Hutchison will get things going in the Bronx.

The Lakeland, Florida native, posted career numbers last season with 11 wins, 184.2 innings pitched, and 184 strikeouts. As a six-foot and four-inch starting pitcher, Hutchison relies on his fastball and his slider to foil opposition batters. Coming into the first month of the season, Hutchison already has an idea of how he plans to get off to a terrific start and improve on his mound presence early in the season.

“I think to just go out there and continue to pitch the way I’m capable of, and continue to improve, and make improvements throughout the year, and just go out there and give our team a chance to win every time I take the ball.”

The Blue Jays roster will feature an astonishing six rookie players. Dalton Pompey has won the job in centre field, Devon Travis will start at second base and the starting rotation will have 22 year-old Aaron Sanchez, and 21 year-old Daniel Norris. Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna are among the eight pitchers in the bullpen. Both could be a late-inning options for John Gibbons if new closer Brett Cecil falters.

A former Vancouver Canadians pitcher is slated to make his season debut on Saturday, April 11 against the reigning American League East champion, Baltimore Orioles. Aaron Sanchez is looking forward to helping out as best as he can and he’s excited by the big additions the Blue Jays have made.

“I think everybody’s excited for the additions that we’ve got. I’m here to do whatever it takes. This team has a chance to win a lot of ball games.”

2015 is a perfect season for the Toronto Blue Jays to take control and win the AL East. The Jays have plenty of offense, great defense, a strong up and coming starting rotation and what could be a surprising bullpen. The Orioles, Rays and Yankees are re-tooling and the Boston Red Sox have a ton of question marks with pitching after purchasing a boat load of offense. The wild-card is always an option, but Hutchison believes the AL East crown is a realistic and attainable goal.

“I think the AL East is obviously what we are going for. I think we are more than capable of winning it. Last year we were in first place for a while and were unable to close the deal. I think that’s absolutely a realistic expectation and I think that’s our expectation.”

The Blue Jays have not made the playoffs since 1993 and the city of Toronto and fans across Canada are waiting for the boys of summer to play baseball into the early fall. Castro (December 24, 1994) and Osuna (February, 7 1995) have no memories of the Blue Jays last playoff appearance because both relievers were not yet born. Hutchison would like nothing more than a post-season berth.

“All of us would like to get into the playoffs and go further than that. It’s been a while for Toronto, so hopefully we can deliver that for the fans and give them what they deserve.”

Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson were the biggest offseason additions made by General Manager Alex Anthopoulos. Martin will provide much-needed leadership and clubhouse respectability. Donaldson blasted 29 home runs, and drove in 98 RBI’s with the Oakland Athletics in 2014. The 29 year-old will man the hot corner for the Jays and add even more offensive power to the Jays batting order. Martin will be tasked with everyday catching duties as takes over for Dioner Navarro behind the plate.

Toronto Blue Jays Catcher Russell Martin in Vancouver, B.C. on January 23, 2015

Toronto Blue Jays Catcher Russell Martin in Vancouver, B.C. on January 23, 2015

The 32 year-old Martin is a proven winner who has set a lot of goals for himself and the Blue Jays.

“The goal is to go out there, have fun, win a lot of ball games, make it to the post-season, and win a World Series. That’s the ultimate goal, to win a World Series. Personally I just want to be part of a team, have a good season and contribute the way I can.”

Health is a big question mark that each and every Major League Baseball team can’t predict heading into a season. The Blue Jays were dealt a significant blow during spring training when promising and projected starting pitcher Marcus Stroman tore his left ACL during a bunting drill. The 23 year-old will miss the entire season.

Newly acquired Michael Saunders also fell victim to injury during spring training, he stepped on a lawn sprinkler and required left knee surgery. The Victoria, B.C. native will start the season on the disabled list. When Saunders does return he is expected to take over in left field for Kevin Pillar.

Russell Martin has made the playoffs in seven of his nine MLB seasons. He knows what it takes to get through a long season. Staying healthy is important, and Martin knows that it’s a tall task to complete when playing day in and day out during a complex 162 game season.

“The key is to be able to stay healthy throughout the year and that’s probably the hardest part of the baseball season, it’s long and gruelling. I think if we stay healthy, I don’t think there’s one team in the American League East that’s better than another. I think it’s going to be competitive all year-long. We’re just going to have to grind it out and work hard to be on top.”

The key offseason moves the Toronto Blue Jays organization made will improve the team and Toronto should finish first in the AL East by seasons end. Another mid-season collapse similar to what occurred last season is not acceptable for a club this talented. The AL East is quite weak and the Blue Jays are in a prime position to vault ahead of the pretenders and make a long and well overdue post-season run.

Toronto Blue Jays Projected Batting Order 

SS Jose Reyes

C Russell Martin

RF Jose Bautista

DH Edwin Encarnacion

3B Josh Donaldson

CF Dalton Pompey

1B Justin Smoak

LF Kevin Pillar

2B Devon Travis

Toronto Blue Jays Projected Starting Rotation

Drew Hutchison R

R.A. Dickey R

Daniel Norris L

Mark Buehrle L

Aaron Sanchez R

Notes MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Toronto Blue Jays home opener vs the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday, April 13 at Rogers Centre.

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