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Mariners notebook: Walker about to return?

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By Bob Dutton
The News Tribune
While all signs point to the Mariners recalling right-handed pitcher Taijuan Walker to start Monday’s game at Houston, manager Lloyd McClendon reiterated he’s “not yet” ready to confirm any decision.
Walker pitched a complete-game shutout in his last start for Class AAA Tacoma and would be ready to start Monday on his normal rest.
Generally regarded as the organization’s top prospect prior to the season, Walker experienced shoulder soreness shortly after arriving in February for spring training. A recurrence in April further delayed his return.
Some roster move prior to Monday’s game seems certain because the Mariners are currently carrying just four starting pitchers after last Wednesday’s decision to option Erasmo Ramirez to Tacoma.
All right in left
Through Friday, feft-fielder Dustin Ackley had saved seven runs in June with his defensive play, according to stats compiled by ESPN. That tied for the second-highest total in the the majors for the month.
Surprised? So was Ackley, who responded: “Really? I’ll take it.”
Ackley’s defense helps ease his disappointing bat: A 13-for-83 slide over the past 25 games brought him into Saturday with a .220 average.
“It’s bad,” McClendon agreed. “He’s grinding. He’s trying. Actually, he’s putting together some pretty good at-bats. He’s just not having positive results. He’ll continue to work and, hopefully, he’ll come out of it.
“The thing where it hasn’t hurt us is we’ve been winning. Listen, we need him to be successful out there. We need him to be productive.”
As for Ackley’s defense?
“I think he’s done a 100 percent turnaround,” McClendon said, “and I mean from what I saw in spring training. He was rough around the edges. Now, he looks the part.”
The same ESPN metric showed third baseman Kyle Seager at plus-five for the month. The June leader, through Friday, was Kansas City outfielder Jarrod Dyson at plus-8.
Three other outfielders matched Ackley at plus-7: Kansas City’s Alex Gordon, Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton and Atlanta’s Jason Heyward.
Politicking for Felix
The All-Star Game is just over two weeks away, and McClendon has some advice for Boston manager John Farrell, who will run the American League squad for the July 15 game at Minnesota.
It concerns Felix Hernandez.
“He should start the All-Star Game,” McClendon said. “If they want to win, he should start.”
Hernandez starts today’s series finale against the Indians. If the Mariners use five starters over the next two weeks, Hernandez would be positioned to start the All-Star Game on his regular schedule.
McClendon is also pushing for Seager and closer Fernando Rodney as possible selections. Second baseman Robinson Cano had a big lead in fan voting to determine the starters in the last balloting update.
Short hops
Endy Chavez served Saturday as the starting designated hitter for just the third time in his 13-year career. All three times have been this month. ... Lefty James Paxton reported no day-after problems following his 25-pitch bullpen workout on Friday in his recovery from a strained back muscle. ... Brad Miller entered Saturday on a .313 surge (26-for-83) with a .864 OPS in 26 games since May 29. ... Kyle Seager, through Friday, had 53 RBI in 56 games since April 23. The only players with more since that date were Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion (57) and Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera (54).
Million mark
The Mariners figured to pass the one million count in attendance Saturday for the 30th straight year. They entered the night at 980,500 for 41 home dates.
The last time they failed to reach one million was 1984, when they drew 870,372 at the Kingdome for a 74-88 club. They finished last season at 1,761,661.
Their average of 23,915 through Friday puts them on pace to finish with 1,937,115. That would be their best season attendance since drawing 2,085,630 in 2010.
Story tags » Mariners

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