Taijuan Walker spent a good portion of his offseason preparing to take his place in the Seattle Mariners starting rotation when the season begins in April. It seems he might have been a little too geared up. Walker put a brief scare into the Mariners when he arrived at camp with a sore shoulder, but it seems that it was all just a momentary setback. Walker’s been cleared to throw his first bullpen session on Monday.
He spoke with reporters briefly on Sunday, including MLB.com’s Greg Johns:
It was just a little soreness, but I’m fine. I’m ready to go. I think I started a little early. I wanted to try and get a head start, but that’s not going to happen.
Johns notes that all of the other pitchers in camp have already thrown at least one bullpen session, with the exception of Felix Hernandez. It is apparently normal for Hernandez to work off a slower-paced scheduled in the Spring. Walker, it would seem, is not really too far behind after initial reports last week suggested that he could be further delayed. For a Mariners team that made moves to upgrade their offense over the winter, having their young pitching ready to step into key roles is going to be of high importance.
My biggest focus this spring is my offspeed pitches. I want to come out of spring with my offspeed ready to go. Last year in Double-A it took me a couple of weeks to get my offspeed stuff back, so hopefully I can come right out of spring with all my pitches ready to go.
Walker was projected to be in the rotation when the season begins, sliding into the #3 spot behind Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. A strained tendon in his pitching hand has already sidelined Iwakuma for 4-6 weeks, meaning he likely won’t be ready to start the season on time. Walker, 21, made a trio of starts for the Mariners late in 2013 after splitting the year between Double-A and Triple-A. He’s still inexperienced and may take some time adjusting to facing Major League hitters, but the Mariners may be counting on him for a few weeks to support Hernandez atop the team’s rotation.