TACOMA — Despite much anticipation, Seattle Mariners’ top prospect Taijuan Walker did not make his scheduled start for the Tacoma Rainiers Tuesday night.
Walker, 21, was expected to make his third minor league rehab start as he works his way back to the big leagues. Walker was placed on the 15-day disabled list by the Mariners prior to the start of the season due to bursitis in his throwing shoulder which limited him during spring training.
According to Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik, Walker felt some stiffness in his right shoulder prior to warming up for Tuesday’s start and told the training staff.
“He spoke to Jamie, he spoke to the trainer, Tom, he spoke to the manager and he told everybody the same thing, ‘I just feel a little stiff.’ So we’ll just back him off,” Zduriencik said.
“He hadn’t thrown at all . . . He felt great yesterday, from what I understand, in his workout so let’s just back him off a little bit and see how he feels (Wednesday).”
Walker flew back with the team from Albuquerque, New Mexico Tuesday morning, arriving in Tacoma in the early afternoon. The stiffness could certainly be a result of the travel or the prior night’s sleep.
Is this setback a concern to the team?
“It gets your attention, I think would be the easiest way to say it, anytime anybody is not able to perform on a given day,” Zduriencik said. “So you always try to take the cautious road and realize, especially someone young like this, someone with the career ahead of him that he has, that you’re better off to err on the side of caution.”
After a five-inning, zero-run, 10-strikeout performance in AA Jackson on Wednesday, it appeared that Walker was one solid, setback-free start from returning to Seattle.
“A lot of that just depends on how he performs,” said Zduriencik. “If he had come out here and done well (Tuesday) then, you know, depending on how he would have looked, what we would have seen, you evaluate it.
“Again, what I’ve said from the beginning I think with a kid like this, when he gets to the big leagues, is he ready to be there? . . . In terms of innings, in terms of throwing to hitters, in terms of touch and feel, those are the things that you’re looking for.”
That understanding wasn’t gathered Tuesday, and is on hold indefinitely.