Scott Servais: Mariners need Taijuan Walker to step up
Taijuan Walker is back with the Mariners, having thrown 5 2/3 innings in Tuesday’s loss to the Yankees after returning from a short stint in Triple-A, and it’s expected that he’ll stay in the rotation for the foreseeable future.
The question is, will he be the pitcher the Mariners need him to be as they pursue a playoff spot, or will he continue to be plagued by inconsistency?
“He knows that everything hasn’t come together for him this season the way he had hoped it would, but we have a lot of season left to play and he’s going to continue to get the ball,” Servais said. “We need him to continue to step up and get deep into the ballgame, find out a way to get through the sixth and into the seventh inning.”
That wasn’t an issue early in the season, as Walker opened the year with four straight quality starts. Those became a lot harder to come by in the following months, however, and tendinitis in his right foot started hampering him in mid-June. After multiple short outings, a trip to the disabled list and the aforementioned demotion to Triple-A, Walker has something to prove. Servais said he can see that Walker knows it, too.
“There is no doubt Taijuan Walker has a chip on his shoulder right now. Rightly so,” Servais said. “The effort level has always been there. I don’t ever question that with Taijuan. … I think the competitive level, there’s a difference. Effort is trying hard. Competing is trying to figure out a way to beat the guy and making adjustments throughout the course of the game. Sometimes that comes with maturity and experience.”
The Mariners hope that maturity becomes evident soon.
“Where we’re at right now, especially in this season, we kinda need it to happen now. I did see some good signs out of Taijuan (Tuesday) night. I do think he’s going to be a big part of our future, but we want him to be a big part of our present,” Servais said.
“There’s a fine line – how patient do you want to be? We’ve gotta win now. That’s the balancing act. I do know with the ability that he has, the stuff that he has, he does have a chance to go out there and shut somebody down through seven or eight innings. The guys that have stepped in – the Wade LeBlancs, Cody Martins – have done a fantastic job of keeping us in the ballgame, and Taijuan needs to do that as well.”
• If there’s one thing Servais wants to see his team improve, it would be the ability to put opponents away instead of letting them back into games. “I think we’ve been in a few games where we’ve had a chance to really go for the jugular, to strangle people, have the other team down, and we kinda let them back into the game. I think that’s a little bit frustrating because the mark of all good teams – no matter if it’s football, it’s baseball – (is) when you’ve got somebody down, you’ve got to finish them off, and there’s been a few games we have not done that.”
• Servais likes what he’s seen from lefty Ariel Miranda, who has made three starts since being acquired from Baltimore for Wade Miley late last month. “Miranda has thrown the ball very well. Got a good arm. He’s worked on the breaking ball, the slider. He threw some decent ones in the game (last Sunday), the changeup/split he’s got going. I’ve been impressed. We’ve fired him out there, he’s handled situations, he does not back off. He’s throwing strikes, and there’s a lot to be excited about there going forward.”