Walker, Paxton look strong in simulated game

WalkerSim

Injured Mariners pitchers Taijuan Walker and James Paxton each threw well in a simulated game at Globe Life Park prior to Tuesday’s contest with the Rangers as both moved closer to rejoining Seattle’s rotation.

Paxton threw 53 pitches in a three-inning stint against teammates Logan Morrison, Cole Gillespie, Stefen Romero, John Buck and WIllie Bloomquist in his second sim game while returning from a strained lat muscle behind his left shoulder. Walker tossed 35 pitches in two innings of work in his first mound action against live hitters since being shut down in mid-April during a Minor League rehab stint with Triple-A Tacoma.

Paxton said he’s ready for the next step, which would be going out on a Minor League rehab of his own. If he made two Minor League starts, he’d be ready to rejoin the Mariners in early June, if all went well.

Walker is slightly behind Paxton’s schedule and the club will be extra-cautious with the 21-year-old after a spring-long issue with his shoulder, but he looked strong Tuesday and finished his session by blowing a sizzling fastball past Cole Gillespie that popped the mitt of catcher John Buck.

“Everything felt good,” said Walker, who is rated the No. 6 prospect in baseball by MLB.com. “My mechanics felt good, everything was in sync, my balance point was good. One of the biggest things I’ve been working on was finishing more to keep stress off my arm and I think I did that pretty well.”

Walker is overexaggerating his throwing motion at the end of his pitches to get more extension and said the result has been encouraging. He was also happy with his off-speed pitches Tuesday.

“I threw a couple curves that kind of hung up, but for the most part it was down,” he said. “I threw a couple really sharp ones. That’s something I’ve been working on a lot and could be a huge pitch for me.”

Paxton, who went 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in two starts before going on the DL on April 8, was equally positive about what he hopes is a final step before returning to game action.

“It was a step forward with my command and making pitches,” said the 25-year-old lefty. “I feel pretty close. I think the next step is a rehab start and I feel I’m ready for it, ready to get in some games and get back. It’s time to step it up and get back into that game mode, so I was starting to let things go.”

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