PEORIA, Ariz. — The Seattle Mariners will shut down top pitching prospect Taijuan Walker for at least one week after exams revealed inflammation in the bursa of his right shoulder.
Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said Friday morning that the decision was made after Walker flew to Los Angeles to have a second opinion on the sore shoulder that has limited him during spring training.
Walker was examined by Dr. Neal ElAttrache at the Kerlan Jobe Clinic in Los Angeles on Thursday. He confirmed the original diagnosis of the Mariners medical staff in Arizona.
“It’s a little bit of a setback, yeah,” McClendon said. “It is what it is and we’ve got to continue to move forward.”
The decision could be a blow to Seattle’s rotation and the expectations that Walker would take one of the spots in the back end of the rotation. American League Cy Young finalist Hisashi Iwakuma has yet to throw due to a finger injury and Walker’s setback could make it difficult for him to be ready by the start of the season.
McClendon said Walker would have to re-start his throwing program when he’s finally able to pick up a ball again.
“I think it’s just normal throwing, what most pitchers experience at some point,” McClendon said. “The MRIs were clean and were good. There was no structural damage with this guy so everything is fine from that standpoint.”
Walker is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. The 21-year-old rose quickly through the Seattle farm system and his major-league debut at the end of last season only heightened expectations about what he could bring to the Mariners rotation in the future. Walker made three starts last September with a 1-0 record and 3.60 ERA.
Walker showed up for camp with a sore throwing shoulder and had been limited to throwing off flat ground so far. He had long toss throwing sessions on back-to-back days earlier this week, leading to the hope of a bullpen session, but that has now been altered.
Walker is taking anti-inflammatory medication along with giving his arm a rest in the hope the inflammation will clear up.
“This guy, we’re not just talking about 2014, we’re hopefully talking about the next 15 years,” McClendon said. “We have to be cautious and we have to be smart.”