Taijuan Walker provides strong relief in September call-up
Heeding manager Lloyd McClendon’s advice, Walker throws six innings, allowing one run and striking out five.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Before Monday’s game with the Oakland Athletics, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon talked with all seven of the players the team called up with the September roster expansion.
He had a message for young pitching prospect Taijuan Walker when discussing his role for the rest of the season.
“Right now, he’s probably going to be more of a long man,” McClendon said before the game. “Hopefully he’ll get to the point where he’s so dominating so that he’s in the rotation, but we’ll see. I had a talk with him today, and that’s totally up to him. We’ve all heard the hype and know he’s a very talented individual, but I want to see it on the field.”
A few hours later, Walker took that message to the mound and delivered a solid outing. Called on to clean up the mess left by Chris Young, who never made it out of the first inning, Walker came on in the second inning and kept things respectable in a 6-1 loss for the Mariners. He pitched six innings, giving up one run on six hits with a two walks and five strikeouts.
“He did a nice job,” McClendon said. “He threw the ball pretty darn good.”
That’s high praise from McClendon.
For Walker, the 2014 season has been a frustrating one, featuring shoulder issues from the start of spring training and three less-than-stellar major-league starts.
“I need to step up,” Walker said. “My three outings in the big leagues weren’t good. My last five down in Triple A were really good. I’ve been feeling really good.”
Walker’s fastball touched 97 mph and his changeup was effective particularly against left-handers.
“I felt really good,” he said. “My fastball command was there, going in and out. Defense made plays behind me. Me and (Mike Zunino) were on the same page. We had a good pace, just get that ball and go. My changeup was working really well today.”
Besides Walker, the team added relievers Carson Smith and Lucas Luetge, first baseman Justin Smoak, catcher Humberto Quintero and outfielders Stefen Romero and Corey Hart.
With Class AAA Tacoma’s season ending Monday, the team will add James Paxton, who will start Tuesday, and Erasmo Ramirez, who will pitch out of the bullpen.
Both Smith and Quintero had to be added to the 40-man roster. To make room for them, the team announced that Willie Bloomquist had been placed on the 60-day disabled list and Jesus Montero was placed on the suspended list. Montero was in a confrontation with a Mariners’ scout on a rehab stint in Boise. The team has said he won’t play baseball the rest of the season.
• Michael Saunders is headed to the Mariners’ training facility in Peoria, Ariz., to try and build strength and get at-bats. Saunders contracted “Fifths Disease” and was out of commission for five days, losing 12 pounds.
• Mariners’ top hitting prospect D.J. Peterson went 4 for 6 with five RBI, while hitting his 30th and 31st home runs in Class AA Jackson’s finale.