Zduriencik denies club has issues with Taijuan Walker

Houston Astros v Seattle MarinersMariners general manager Jack Zduriencik made it clear Wednesday that Taijuan Walker, the talented young right-hander most often named in trade rumors, remains an integral part of his club going forward.

Zduriencik responded strongly to a Tweet by ESPN.com analyst Keith Law saying he’d been told by several baseball executives that the Mariners had “soured on Taijuan Walker’s makeup, in part due to his behavior in the AFL.”

“There is no truth in that whatsoever,” Zduriencik said. “That’s ridiculous.”

The 22-year-old made two strong starts in the Arizona Fall League in October, then told the team he wanted to take the rest of the winter off to work out and prepare for next season. Walker missed the first few months of 2014 with shoulder problems, then split time between Triple-A Tacoma and Seattle. He went 2-3 with a 2.61 ERA in six games for Seattle and finished with a complete-game four-hitter in a 1-0 loss at Toronto.

Zduriencik said the Mariners have no problems with Walker.

“We’d have maybe liked Taijuan to pitch a little more, but he really didn’t feel he was where he needed to be to pitch for other reasons,” he said. “But physically he was throwing 100 mph, he’d given us two really good starts at the end and two really good starts in the Arizona Fall League and he was at the point where he was ready to get into his offseason program.

“There was great logic after our discussions with him at the time. We knew what was going on and he’d pitched great. He had four very successful outings at the end and all that set him up for the coming year. So we’re very pleased with Taijuan Walker. This is a great, young arm, a very talented kid that is going to be a part of this for years to come.”

Zduriencik noted that Walker is young, but there is no question or concern about his work ethic.

“Here’s the thing with Taijuan. No matter what, even when he was in Triple-A and wasn’t pitching that great in the middle of the summer, the one thing everyone said about Taijuan Walker is he’s a great young man and an excellent worker,” Zduriencik said. “Taijuan does what he needs to do every day to prepare himself for now and the future.

“But you’re never going to get away from the fact he was 21 years of age. He was 20 when he was first pitching in the big leagues. This is a young guy. There are guys not even out of college yet and he was already pitching in the big leagues. With Taijuan, we’re fine and looking forward to seeing him in the spring.”

McClendon met with Walker in Arizona several weeks ago and told Zduriencik he was extremely pleased with their conversation. The Mariners have six strong candidates for five rotation spots at the moment, but McClendon feels Walker is in the thick of the competition.

“He needs to continue to work on his game, become very consistent with what he’s doing with his approach and how he goes about his business,” McClendon said. “Quite frankly, I thought he did a tremendous job in September for us, and certainly has earned the right to come into Spring Training and compete for a starting position.”

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