(SportsNetwork.com) - The Seattle Mariners are more than a trendy pick to reach the postseason this year. That optimism may be misplaced, though, if the man on the mound Tuesday can't stay healthy.
Left-hander James Paxton has shown flashes of brilliance in his brief major league career, going 9-4 with a 2.66 ERA. However, he has been unable to stay on the field and last season after making his first two starts missed three months with a lat injury.
Paxton made 11 starts in the final two months of the season and his overall numbers were 6-4 in 13 starts with a 3.04 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 74 innings pitched.
The injury bug struck again this winter, though, as the start of Paxton's spring training was delayed because of a bruised forearm he suffered in a fall during agility work. Paxton fell hands first on the AstroTurf in the weight room area a few days before pitchers and catchers had their first official workout.
Paxton's Cactus League numbers left little to be desired, as he pitched to a 7.84 ERA in 10 1/3 innings.
"(Spring training) numbers don't matter," said Paxton. "All that matters is how you feel and if you're ready to go for the season."
Seattle can only hope Paxton delivers the way the phenomenal Felix Hernandez did in Monday's opener. After allowing a first-inning solo homer to reigning AL MVP Mike Trout, Hernandez settled in and dominated the Angels in a 4-1 win.
Hernandez (1-0) followed the home run by retiring nine straight batters, and he finished with one run allowed on two hits and a walk in seven innings. The former Cy Young Award winner also struck out 10 and improved to 6-0 on Opening Day with a 1.49 ERA..
Seth Smith, acquired by Seattle in an offseason trade with San Diego, became the first player in Mariners history to have three extra-base hits on Opening Day.
Dustin Ackley hit a solo homer off Jered Weaver and Austin Jackson added two hits, including a double.
The Angels, winners of the AL West in 2014, turned to Weaver (0-1) on Opening Day for the seventh time. He exited after six innings and allowed four runs on eight hits with a strikeout and no walks.
Getting the call for the Angels on Tuesday will be lefty C.J. Wilson, who had the worst season of his career a year ago. Wilson pitched to a 4.51 ERA and walked an American League-leading 85 batters in 175 2/3 innings.
Over his last 16 regular-season starts, Wilson gave up 51 runs in 76 innings.
"I think he's throwing the ball as well as I've seen him throw it, which brings you back to either the start of last year or a couple years ago," manager Mike Scioscia told MLB's official website. "I think that a lot of the second-half issues - from the health to consistency to release point - have been resolved. I look for a big year from C.J."
Wilson, though, is 15-8 lifetime against the Mariners with a 3.52 ERA. His 15 wins against them since the start of 2006 are the most in baseball.
Seattle was 12-7 against the Angels last season.