By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Right-hander Taijuan Walker will return Wednesday from a two-start remedial tour at Triple-A Tacoma to start for the Seattle Mariners in their series finale against the New York Mets at Safeco Field.
The Mariners will make a corresponding move prior to the game to clear space for Walker. In all likelihood, right-hander Erasmo Ramirez, who started Tuesday, will be optioned back to Tacoma.
Walker, 21, has been generally regarded as the organization’s top prospect over the last two years but has spent much of this season battling a sore shoulder that surfaced in spring training.
“I definitely just want to get on a routine and roll with it,” he said. “It kind of sucks being out for a couple weeks. Getting back, then shut down again. Back up and down. It would be nice to pitch well then get back on a roll.”
The Mariners opted to recall Walker over using long reliever Tom Wilhelmsen for another spot start.
Wilhelmsen worked 22/3 innings in a July 10 spot start against Minnesota and pitched four innings of relief in last Friday’s 16-inning loss to the Angels in Anaheim, Calif.
“My bullpen has been taxed,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “It still intrigues me about Wilhelmsen (possibly shifting to the rotation at some point in the future). We just can’t do it right now.”
McClendon pointed to using his bullpen for 201/3 innings over the four games since the All-Star break. The Mariners returned from the break by playing 16 innings and 12 innings in their first two games in Anaheim.
“The Anaheim series was just too grueling for us,” McClendon said. “We’ve got to back off a little bit.”
The Mariners recalled Ramirez from Tacoma prior to Tuesday’s game after clearing roster space by optioning first baseman Justin Smoak to the Rainiers.
Walker was 1-1 while allowing four runs and seven hits in 10 innings over two starts just prior to the All-Star Game. He was then optioned to Tacoma to enable him to keep pitching over the break.
He made two starts for the Rainiers and won both games but lasted just five innings each time because of high pitch counts. He gave up three runs and 11 hits in 10 innings while striking out just two and walking four.
“Could be better, could be worse,” Walker said. “After this last start, I finally found what I needed to fix. I’ve been hammering that the past couple days in the bullpen.
“I felt like I was flying open. Watching video from last year and this year — my lower half, there’s no drive, no legs in it. When I did use my legs it was still flying open.
“I noticed (on tape) last year I was closed off more when I finished. This year, I just feel like everything was open.”
The Mariners opted to recall Ramirez and Walker after choosing to provide Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez with an extra day of rest following their first post-break starts.
Iwakuma and Hernandez will pitch Thursday and Friday in the first two games of a four-game weekend series against the Baltimore Orioles at Safeco Field.