By Brent Stecker
The Mariners have survived the first few weeks of the season with a makeshift pitching rotation. That doesn’t mean they’re in the clear, though.
James Paxton joined Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker as an injured Mariners hurler earlier this week, as the rookie southpaw’s strong start to the year was derailed by a strained lat muscle. As a result, Seattle now has a question mark in place for its starter Tuesday.
Manager Lloyd McClendon addressed the issue before Friday’s series opener vs. Oakland, and it appears Walker and Triple-A arm Blake Beavan are the two front-runners to pitch Tuesday — though he added he’s unsure if there’s another candidate.
Walker, who had his spring training cut short by right shoulder inflammation, was dominant in his second rehab start Wednesday, striking out 10 in five innings of three-hit, no-run ball for Double-A Jackson. McClendon doesn’t want to be hasty with the 21-year-old phenom, though, who has just three MLB starts under his belt.
“We want to be cautious with Taijuan and make sure he’s ready to compete at this level,” McClendon said. “The game’s a little more stressful at this level than at the minor-league level. â€¦ We have to take all that into account when we decide whether or not we’re gonna bring him or somebody else in.”
McClendon added that any reticence he has about bringing Walker up too soon isn’t related to his MLB experience.
“It has everything to do with the lack of work in spring training and the amount of innings he had because of the injury in spring training,” he said.
As for Beavan, 25, he is no stranger to pitching in the big leagues — he has 43 career starts for Seattle over the last three seasons. He’s looked good in two appearances for the Tacoma Rainiers this season (2.08 ERA, eight strikeouts, 13 innings), so a spot start isn’t out of the realm of possibility for him.
One person who isn’t be in contention to join the team just yet is Iwakuma, who is coming off a career year in 2013.
He finally threw his first bullpen this week after recovering from a strained finger tendon, but won’t pitch to live batters until after a few more bullpen sessions.
“He’s doing well. His first bullpen session went very well,” McClendon said.
In the video above, 710 ESPN Seattle’s Bob Stelton and Dave Grosby further discuss the Mariners’ rotation situation.