BRENT STECKER

Mariners notebook: Taijuan Walker at ease but not pain-free in his foot

Jul 1, 2016, 4:52 PM | Updated: 4:55 pm

The Mariners have to be happy with Taijuan Walker’s return to the rotation on Thursday night, as he gave them 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball, allowing just four hits, striking out five and issuing no free passes. And he did all that despite still experiencing pain from the foot issue that has bothered him since he was forced to make an early exit June 14 at Tampa Bay.

Walker said after Seattle’s 5-3 win over Baltimore that he felt pain in his injured foot almost immediately after taking the mound Thursday. The difference this time around as opposed to his previous two outings was that he had the peace of mind that he’s just experiencing inflammation and is not at risk of structural damage.

Mariners manager Scott Servais said that Walker had stopped feeling pain in the foot by going 11 days between starts, and though the renewed pain wasn’t exactly expected, it’s not particularly worrisome, either.

“I know leading up to the start he felt good. He felt good in his bullpen, no issues. But for whatever reason – (maybe) added intensity of when you get on the mound, when it’s on during the game – it flared up again. But I think he’s more at ease. It’s nothing directly related to his Achilles and it’s just something he’s gonna have to kinda work through.

“It will get better.”

Notes

• Felix Hernandez threw a 43-pitch bullpen session Friday – though Servais said earlier in the afternoon the plan was to throw just 30 – and said afterward that he feels ready to pitch. Working his way back from a calf injury, Hernandez will throw another bullpen and a simulated game on the Mariners’ upcoming road trip before making a pair of minor-league rehab starts, according to Servais. Hernandez said July 10 with Single-A Everett will likely be first rehab start.

• Servais said Mike Zunino is in line to get his first start of the year behind the plate for the Mariners on Saturday against Baltimore right-hander Tyler Wilson. Zunino will also start either Sunday or Monday.

• Veteran set-up man Joaquin Benoit had another poor relief appearance Thursday night, but Servais said the shoulder problem that resulted in an early-season stint on the disabled list wasn’t the reason why. “Probably more of a mechanical, release-point, timing issue to see him miss the strike zone by as much as he’s missed it,” Servais said. “(Getting) late in some counts is very abnormal; that’s not him. We gotta keep him going here. I know coming out of the game last night he wasn’t happy with his performance but he said his arm felt fine and that was not an issue. It was more just the timing issue of getting the release point and having an idea of where the ball’s going.”

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Mariners notebook: Taijuan Walker at ease but not pain-free in his foot