With his health and shoulder seemingly in tact, next comes the elevated levels of confidence necessary for Seattle Mariners pitching prospect Taijuan Walker to be able to succeed. With nothing left for him to prove in the minors, it’s time his big league club calls upon him.
If he were healthy in March, Walker probably would have cracked the starting rotation out of Spring Training. However, that wasn’t the case, and so it has been a somewhat long and arduous road to relativity for him.
Baseball America ranked the flame throwing 21-year-old righty a Top 10 prospect prior to the 2011 season. Since being touted with such acclaim, his imprint on the MLB has been minimal. Walker has a career ERA of 3.50 in the minors spread out across five seasons, with an impressive K/9 of 9.8. Like many youthful, hard throwing pitchers trying to make a name for themselves, he has struggled at times with his control.
Prior to being activated from the Mariners’ disabled list and optioned to their Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers affiliate this week, Walker had pitched 10 innings in rehab appearances for the Rainiers, accumulating an ugly ERA of 6.30 with five BB. Feeling healthy has always been the top priority since Spring Training for him, with hopes the productivity would follow soon thereafter.
The Mariners can do no harm by calling on Walker to pitch Saturday against the Texas Rangers. The club has more to lose and less to gain by sending SP Erasmo Ramirez out to the mound again instead of Walker. Over three starts in 2013 for the Mariners, Walker pitched well to the tune of a 1-0 record with a 3.60 ERA. Also, giving him the ball for his first start of 2014 at Safeco Field should justifiably be more beneficial to his effectiveness.
Bench boss Lloyd McClendon knows Walker’s potential far exceeds Ramirez, so in order to get Taijuan up to speed with things and boost his confidence by having him face major league level hitters, it would be in the organizations best interest to get the ball rolling this weekend. The promise of Walker delivering for Seattle seems long overdue, so if the kid is healthy, the Mariners are better off rolling the dice with him as opposed to the high probability of Ramirez going out and throwing another clunker of a ballgame. There is more to gain by Walker throwing poorly than there is for Ramirez. Making corrections in Triple-A is not the same as making corrections against an Adrian Beltre or an Alex Rios.
Put Walker on a pitch count or put catcher John Buck behind the plate for some veteran guidance, but just put him out there and allow him to finally do work and cement himself in the rotation.