Just as the Seattle Mariners were finally starting to show some traction — their latest loss aside — they learned Friday that left-hander James Paxton requires time on the disabled list.
Paxton was diagnosed with a strained tendon in the middle finger of his pitching hand after exiting Thursday’s 5-3 loss to Cleveland in the fifth inning because of what was initially characterized as discomfort.
Manager Lloyd McClendon said it isn’t yet known how long Paxton will be sidelined, but club officials are already bracing for an extended absence.
Paxton’s injury comes at a time when the Mariners are already compensating for an injury to right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, who isn’t expected to return from a strained back muscle until after the All-Star break.
“It’s a tough loss, obviously,” McClendon said. “To think we’ve lost our No. 2 and No. 3 starters, that’s tough. But in this game, nobody feels sorry for you. You have to make the adjustments.
“You have to take the stand that the next man up, let’s go. We just have to figure out who is the next man is.”
Paxton said the injury occurred on a pitch Thursday in the fifth inning to Brandon Moss.
“My middle finger just kind of got tight between my second and third knuckle,” he said. “I tried to throw the next pitch and something didn’t feel right. That’s when they came and got me.”
Paxton underwent an examination early Friday with Dr. Edward Khalfayan, the club’s medical director. Khalfayan was scheduled to arrive later Friday at Safeco Field to discuss the findings.
“We’re going to go over it,” Paxton said, “and make a plan going forward.”
The Mariners don’t need a replacement for Paxton in their rotation until Tuesday’s game against the New York Yankees. Accordingly, they recalled right-handed reliever Dominic Leone from Triple-A Tacoma.
Leone, 23, returns after working four scoreless innings over his last three appearances for the Rainiers. He was 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA earlier this season for the Mariners in eight appearances.
A move for a rotation replacement likely won’t be made until Tuesday. The leading candidates at Tacoma appear to be left-hander Mike Montgomery and veteran right-hander Justin Germano.
The Mariners acquired Montgomery, 25, in a March 31 trade with Tampa Bay for right-hander Erasmo Ramirez.
Montgomery is 4-3 with a 3.74 ERA in nine starts for the Rainiers. He is on the 40-man roster, but he has never pitched in the big leagues.
Germano, 32, is a nine-year veteran with seven clubs whom the Mariners signed last December to a minor-league deal. He is 3-2 with a 3.02 ERA in 12 games at Tacoma, including six starts.
Promoting Germano would require the Mariners to make a corresponding space-clearing move on their 40-man roster.
Paxton is 3-3 with a 3.70 ERA in 10 starts, but he had pitched particularly well lately. He carried a 20-inning scoreless streak into Thursday’s game against the Indians.
“He’s been very dominant,” McClendon said. “(Thursday’s) ballgame could have been very different if he fielded a ground ball. He’s pitched extremely well. He’s going to be missed.”
BEIMEL ON LEAVE
Veteran lefty reliever Joe Beimel is expected to miss a day or two in order to attend his son’s graduation from high school.
The Mariners placed Beimel on the restricted list in order to recall lefty reliever Lucas Luetge from Tacoma. Luetge was in uniform for Friday’s game against the Indians.
Beimel pitched a season-high 21/3 innings Thursday against the Indians, which meant he was likely to require at least a day to recover before pitching again. He has a 2.79 ERA this season in 10 outings.
Luetge, 28, was recalled this season for the second time. He pitched 21/3 scoreless innings on April 25 against Minnesota in his only big-league appearance. He is 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA in 14 game at Tacoma.
CANO STILL SLOWED
Second baseman Robinson Cano wasn’t in the starting lineup for a second straight game because of an ongoing battle with flu-like symptoms.
Willie Bloomquist started at second base, while Brad Miller, who started Thursday at second base, shifted from second to shortstop to replace slumping Chris Taylor.
Cano entered Thursday’s game as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning. He flied out to right.
CHARLIE ZEROING IN
Lefty reliever Charlie Furbush has stranded each of his 11 inherited runners this season through Thursday and has not permitted a run in 18 of his 19 appearances.
Furbush entered the weekend with a streak of 11 scoreless outings since permitting three runs in an April 21 loss at Houston. Overall, he has allowed just two earned runs and five hits in 11 innings for a 1.64 ERA.
GUTI ON A ROLL
The Mariners are already operating with an extra position player on their roster, but veteran Franklin Gutierrez continues to make a push for promotion at Triple-A Tacoma.
Gutierrez entered the weekend on a 10-for-22 surge over his last six games, which boosted his average to .330 through 30 games for the Rainiers. He also had a .444 on-base percentage and a .524 slugging percentage.
ALL OR (OFTEN) NOTHING
Through Thursday, only Houston topped the Mariners in reliance on homers for run production.
The Mariners scored all of their runs in Thursday’s 5-3 loss to Cleveland via homers, which boosted their season percentage to 47.2 percent. The Astros lead the majors by scoring 47.4 percent of their runs through homers.
Reliance on homers isn’t necessarily bad, but the Mariners have hit 44 of their 60 homers with nobody on base. No other club had hit more than 38 solo homers.
The success of an organization’s farm system isn’t judged merely by wins and losses, but this can’t be good: Each of the Mariners’ top three affiliates started the weekend in last place.
Further, all four full-season affiliates have losing records and were a combined 80-108 (.426).
• Triple-A Tacoma (19-29) trailed first-place Fresno (Astros) by 81/2 games in the Pacific Coast League’s four-team Northern Division.
• Double-A Jackson (20-26) trailed first-place Chattanooga (Twins) by nine games in the Southern League’s four-team Northern Division.
• High-A Bakersfield (18-28) trailed first-place Visalia (Diamondbacks) by 131/2 games in the California League’s five-team Northern Division.
• Low-A Clinton (23-25) is in fifth place in the Midwest League’s seven-team Western Division but trails first-place Quad Cities (Astros) by 11 games.
It was 26 years ago Saturday — May 30, 1989 — that Randy Johnson made his debut as a Mariner by holding the Yankees to two runs and six hits over six innings in a 3-2 victory in New York.
Ken Griffey Jr. drove in all three M’s runs with a pair of homers.
The Mariners and Indians continue their four-game weekend series at 7:10 p.m. Saturday at Safeco Field.
Left-hander Roenis Elias (2-1, 2.56 ERA) will face Cleveland right-hander Shaun Marcum (1-0, 6.28). The game can be seen on Root Sports and heard on 710 ESPN.