No looking back for James Paxton

World Future's All-Star James Paxton of the Seattle Mariners looks on during the 2011 XM All-Star...

World Future's All-Star James Paxton of the Seattle Mariners looks on during the 2011 XM All-Star Futures Game at Chase Field iin Phoenix on Sunday. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images/)

Bob Elliott, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:57 PM ET

PHOENIX — James Paxton could have come out firing.

Firing against the Blue Jays for not signing him 37th over-all in North America draft in 2009.

Firing against Jays president Paul Beeston for saying the reason a contract agreement wasn’t reached was because “agent Scott Boras didn’t allow the Jays to talk to the family.”

Or firing against the NCAA and the University of Kentucky, which didn’t allow him to pitch his senior season in 2010.

He could have pulled a Shea Hillenbrand or George Bell rant and no one would have said he was in the wrong.

“I’d rather look ahead than back, I don’t think there’s anything to be gained by going over that,” Paxton said before the XM Futures game, won by Team USA 6-4 over the Team World.

Instead, Paxton came out firing in the third.

He sawed off Jason Kipnis, 11 homers at triple-A Columbus (Cleveland Indians), breaking his bat for a comebacker.

He got Baltimore Orioles 2010 first-round pick Manny Machado to pop up a 2-1 pitch.

And used a 96 m.p.h. fastball to retire Bryce Harper, first over-all pick of the Washington Nationals in 2010, on a grounder to first.

Six pitches.

Zero hits, zero runs.

Thanks for coming.

Jays prospect Henderson Alvarez worked a scoreless seventh for the World.

Rather than sign with the Jays or pitch as a senior with the Kentucky Wildcats, Paxton spent last spring in limbo.

He made four pre-draft starts for the Grand Prairie Airhogs in the American Association of Independent Baseball. He threw about “100 bullpens,” and was drafted in the fourth round by the Seattle Mariners in 2009 and signed in March.

Ted Paxton could have come out firing going through 19 months of stress before his son signed a pro contract.

“James is thrilled with where he’s at now,” the father said from Ladner, B.C. before heading out to The Ladner Landing to watch ESPN2 and see his son pitch.

Paxton was given a $942,500 US signing bonus by the M’s after Boras asked for $1 million from the Jays, who offered slot money of $874,500.

A raise, but the uncertainty, his career being set back all those months, was it worth it?

“I don’t have any regrets,” Paxton said.

His velocity, good in 2009, not there a year ago, has returned and his fastball has been clocked in the 90-94 m.p.h. range.

“It was basically from not facing hitters,” said Paxton, who began 2011 with class-A Clinton. In 11 starts he was 3-3 with a 2.73 ERA, walking 30 and striking out 80 in 56 innings. Promoted to double-A Jackson, he allowed two earned runs on six hits and three walks in 42/3 innings in his first start.

Paxton, who said his goal was to be at double-A this season, threw his bullpen sessions at Boras’ Newport Beach, Calif., complex or to his father in B.C. They’d either go out the door to Leslie Park or a few blocks away to Holly Park, a soccer turf pitch.

At 55 years of age Ted was still squatting as when his son was a youngster.

“I have shin ulcers, I lost a toe nail on my big toe from a ball in the dirt,” Ted Paxton said. “Sometimes he would get his buddies when I couldn’t catch, but most of the time I did it. We’d play long toss and eventually he’d get so far away I’d use a bat to get the ball to him ... so he’s better at fly balls now.”

Leslie Park is the same yard where Paxton learned how to pitch, bringing back nostalgic memories for the father.

“When he started as a young lad he’d struggle with the strike zone that he’d get so angry he’d thrown down his glove and kick it,” the father recalled.

“I’d usually say: ‘Listen, do we want to do this or take a break and come back? There’s no sense continuing on the way we’re going.”

Paxton is doing fine and looking to the road ahead.

 


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