By Kurt Ritzman
Assistant Sports Editor
James Paxton wasn’t even with the Clinton LumberKings coming out of spring training, but he certainly has made an impression since joining the team.
Paxton, a left-handed starting pitcher, was selected as Clinton’s lone representative to the Midwest League All-Star Game next Tuesday in Davenport.
“It’s a great honor to be in the All-Star Game,” he said. “It’s going to be a really fun experience, I think. It will be good.
“I wasn’t expecting it. I just try to go out there one day at a time and get better. Whatever happens happens.”
Paxton will join the other Western All-Stars, who will be coached by the Quad Cities staff, as they battle their counterparts from the East.
“I don’t really know what to expect,” he said. “It’s my first All-Star Game in the minor leagues. I’m just going to go out there and try to enjoy myself and enjoy the experience. Try to have a good time with the other players.”
Paxton said he thought he was progressing “pretty well,” since joining the LumberKings in late April from extended spring training. He is 2-3 with a 2.89 ERA through eight starts. He has 60 strikeouts and 28 walks in 43 2⁄3 innings.
“I’ve still got a lot to learn,” he said. “The coaches here are doing a great job helping me to progress my career. I’m looking forward to keep on doing that.”
One of the things Paxton wants to do is go deeper into ballgames, and part of that is keeping his pitch count down.
“The big thing for me is just throwing strikes and trying to cut down on the walks and all that kind of stuff,” Paxton said.
Paxton, a native of Ladner, British Columbia, Canada, was drafted 39th overall out of the University of Kentucky by Toronto in 2009, but did not sign. He was then ruled ineligible to play college baseball — a subject he doesn’t care to talk about — and pitched for Grand Prairie, Texas, in the American Association in 2010 before being selected by the Mariners in the fourth round of last year’s draft.
Paxton made only four starts for Grand Prairie but he said it was a helpful experience.
“I thought it was really good; there were a lot of guys who had Double-A, Triple-A time,” Paxton said. “I learned a lot from those guys, a bunch of older guys. They kind of told me what it was going to be like here in the minor leagues. I think it really helped me prepare myself for what’s going on right now.
“It’s definitely nice to come out and play again,” he said. “I’m finally getting some consistent baseball now. It’s been helping me improve. I think it’s going to be good for my career now that I’m playing baseball daily again.”
Paxton said he called former Kentucky teammate and Northeast graduate Tyler Howe when he knew he was going to be assigned to Clinton. Howe was a catcher for the Wildcats. Howe is currently playing minor league baseball in the New York Mets organization.
“I’m not sure if he’ll be coming back here at all while I’m here,” Paxton said. “Hopefully, he does at some point.”