TACOMA — Despite much buildup, Mariners’ top prospect Taijuan Walker did not make his scheduled start for the Tacoma Rainiers Tuesday night at Cheney Stadium. Walker, 21, was expected to make his third minor league rehab start as he works his way back to the big leagues.
He 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 that limited him during spring training.
According to general manager Jack Zduriencik, Walker felt some stiffness prior to warming up for Tuesday’s start and told the training staff.
“He spoke to (trainers), 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, NM., Tuesday morning, arriving in Tacoma in the early afternoon. The stiffness could be a result of travel or the prior night’s sleep.
Is the setback a concern?
“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 Wednesday, it appeared 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.”