Mariners hope Taijuan Walker can be the latest to get a reset
The restarts the Mariners gave James Paxton and Mike Zunino in Triple-A appear to have them on the right track now back at the big-league level. The Mariners are hoping the same can be done for Taijuan Walker, who was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma on Monday.
“We’ve talked about trying to do what’s best for the player,” manager Scott Servais said in his daily meeting with the media. “Those guys (Paxton and Zunino) certainly have responded and come back and been integral parts of our team going forward, and I think Taijuan certainly has the ability to do that. But where we are as a team, his last 13 starts he’s had like three quality starts.”
Exactly three quality starts. After a hot start to the season where he allowed a total of just four runs in his first four starts, Walker has pitched 13 outings putting up an ERA of 5.12 and averaging just five innings per start. While he has shown brilliance at times in the big leagues, the consistency has not been there. Had the Mariners not been sitting just 3.5 games out of a Wild Card spot, perhaps the effort would be made to find that consistency at the big-league level, but the focus is different now. Servais is looking for consistency from all five of his starters.
“There’s a certain level of expectation,” he said. “You’ve got to go deeper in games, you’ve got to be competitive when you go out there. Just the consistency of it, is not knowing what you are going to get from time to time. He’s had a few nagging injuries but where we are as a club dictated as much as anything in this situation.”
Servais said Walker wasn’t happy to hear the news, but that he wouldn’t expect him to be. The hope is he will follow the blueprints set by Paxton and Zunino.
“It’s the do-good league; you do good, you stay. You don’t, and where young players are at certain points of their career, where James Paxton and Mike Zunino were, those guys went down, take the right approach and right attitude and have come back and been major contributors,” he said.
“Hopefully he responds in the right way and comes back with a chip on his shoulder and we get the good Taijaun back.”
From mindset to mechanics Walker, will have plenty to work on.
“When they get between the lines they’ve got to make adjustments,” said pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. “You leave the mechanics and things like that for your side days. On game day, it’s time to make in-game adjustments. We haven’t always seen that from Tai.
“He’s been doing a lot of searching,” he continued. “He needs to get back to pitching and competing, get a handle back on his No. 1 pitch, which is his fastball. He has got to go back to the basics and figure some things out.”
For now Walker’s spot in the rotation will be filled by Ariel Miranda, who will start Friday in Oakland.