Taijuan Walker shut down for a week
Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker, one of the top young pitching prospects in baseball, will be shut down from throwing for the next seven days after tests revealed inflammation in the bursa in his right shoulder.
Walker, 21, is the No. 6 ranked prospect in baseball this preseason by MLB.com and is expected to challenge for a spot in the Mariners rotation after starting three games for Seattle at the end of last season.
Manager Lloyd McClendon said Walker has been put on anti-inflammatory medications after being re-evaluated by Dr. Neil ElAttrache at the Kerlan Jobe Clinic in Los Angeles on Thursday. Walker has been held back since the start of Spring Training after arriving at camp with soreness in his shoulder, throwing just a couple bullpen sessions and doing some flat-ground catch in recent days.
“It’s a little bit of a setback, yeah,” said McClendon. “But it is what it is and we just have to continue to move forward.”
Will Walker have time to be ready for the start of the season if all goes well when he’s cleared to throw again in a week?
“I’m not sure,” McClendon said. “That’s my hope, but we’ll see how it goes.”
The Mariners will proceed carefully with the youngster from Yucaipa, Calif., who was the 43rd overall selection in the 2010 Draft, and has since developed into one of the prized young arms in baseball.
“This guy, we’re not just talking about 2014,” McClendon said. “Hopefully we’re talking about the next 15 years. We have to be cautious and we have to be smart. It’s frustrating for him, but I think it’s the best avenue to take. Err on the side of being cautious and continue to move forward with it.”
McClendon believes the issue cropped up from just normal throwing and said there’s no indication of more extensive problems in the shoulder.
“The MRIs were clean and good,” he said. “There’s no structural damage. Everything is fine from that standpoint.”
The Mariners have been without standout right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma since the start of camp due to a sprained tendon in his right middle finger. Iwakuma will see the doctor Friday afternoon for his three-week reevaluation. He was initially expected to miss 4-6 weeks.
With both Iwakuma and Walker up in the air, the Mariners have some rotation openings behind ace Felix Hernandez.
“A lot of opportunities,” McClendon said. “We have a lot of big arms to hopefully take advantage of those opportunities. We’ll see what happens. Like I’ve said, I just they don’t all eliminate themselves. Then we’ve got problems.”
Right-hander Matt Palmer, a non-roster invitee to camp, has also been shut down for a few days with a slight elbow strain. On the good news front, right-hander Brandon Maurer threw well in his first bullpen session Thursday after being held out with a stiff back and appears ready to resume his normal schedule, McClendon said.