Mariners appear to put the brakes on Walker again

Feb 23, 2014, 2:51 PM | Updated: Feb 24, 2014, 4:51 pm

By Shannon Drayer

PEORIA, Ariz. – Last Monday, Felix Hernandez and Taijuan Walker threw their first bullpens of the spring. The two were a few days behind the majority of the pitchers, which was not out of the ordinary for Hernandez, who generally starts out a little slower. In the case of Walker, he was held back a few days because of a sore shoulder. The first bullpen went well for both players and both players threw bullpens again on Thursday. Only Hernandez threw Sunday.

tai walker
Mariners pitcher Taijuan Walker did not throw Sunday, and his next bullpen session has yet to be scheduled despite the team’s insistence that he has not had any setbacks. (AP)

Walker was given the day off from throwing with the reason given that he had thrown a lot in the past week. According to Walker, however, he isn’t slated to play catch again until Tuesday, and his next bullpen has yet to be scheduled.

Both Walker and pitching coach Rick Waits insist that he came out of his last bullpen with no problems. I talked to Waits about why Walker wasn’t throwing Sunday or Monday and was told that everybody is on their own program and they are just taking it slow with him. He stressed that no additional problems had popped up from the start of camp.

Walker, who expressed that he would like to be throwing now, said that he understood why the organization was taking things slow with him. When asked if anything had changed physically for him since the start of camp or after his last bullpen session, he said no. So no better or worse than Day 1 of camp?

“Not worse,” he answered. “Definitely better.”

I think it is safe to say he has fallen a little further behind but there is still plenty of time this spring to catch up, particularly if he is in that fifth starter spot. He has yet to fall into a regular routine, however, and if that doesn’t happen soon, that could be a concern.

As for the others who threw Sunday, a welcome surprise found Stephen Pryor on the bullpen mound for the first time since undergoing surgery to reattach his triceps. Pryor threw 20 fastballs under the watch of trainers, and after he said that while it wasn’t and shouldn’t be max effort at this point, he got nothing but positives out of the experience.

“I’ve been waiting for that for awhile,” he said. “It has been a long, impatient offseason.”

Pryor said that his schedule for return was completely dictated by how he felt day-to-day.

“If I throw five bullpens and feel really good maybe I will go into a game,” he said. “Maybe it takes seven. I don’t know at this point.”

It wasn’t anticipated that Pryor would be back before the end of May but Sunday’s session was a big step forward.

Shortly after Pryor threw, Hisashi Iwakuma took the hill for some dry (without the ball) work. He progressed to towel work (conducting a throwing motion with a towel) and it appeared all went well.

“His splitter was unhittable,” quipped trainer Rick Griffin.

Iwakuma is scheduled to check back in with the hand doctor March 3 and is hoping he will get the green light to resume throwing at that point.

Last but not least, Hernandez threw his first live batting practice session Sunday. He threw mostly fastballs and changeups and mixed in two sliders. The changeup looked nasty with Chris Taylor, Gabriel Noriega and Ji-Man Choi really not having much of a chance against it.

Waits, who has seen Hernandez in spring training the past four years, said that he appears to be ahead of where he normally is this time of the year. For his part, Hernandez said that he felt good – really good.

Manager Lloyd McClendon came away impressed and joked that perhaps there was a tweak or two that he could give Hernandez to make him better. Could he hit him in his day, however?

“No, I could not,” he said with a smile. “I’m not going to lie to you. I asked Chris (Taylor) and he said, ‘That’s a lot of movement, Skip.’ And I said, ‘Yes it is.’ “

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