Taijuan Walker Isn’t Dying

Jeff Sullivan · February 28, 2014 at 9:21 am · Filed Under Mariners 

It doesn’t literally exist in any tangible form, but there is a list of things we would and would not want to read about Taijuan Walker. Let’s examine the very bottom of that list:

  • Elbow problems. But at least it’s not his shoulder
  • Viral encephalitis. But his shoulder is ok?
  • Traded 🙁 but if nothing else, hey, trade return
  • Prison sentence
  • Shoulder problems

Nothing more terrifying for a pitcher than undiagnosed shoulder discomfort. At least, nothing more terrifying for a fan of a pitcher. Early in Mariners camp, Taijuan Walker came down with undiagnosed shoulder discomfort. That was a problem, although the Mariners insisted it wasn’t a big deal. Walker began his recovery, and now, there’s a setback. Walker’s going to take some time off from throwing, having been given a diagnosis of inflammation. More specifically, bursa inflammation, or bursitis. Again, the Mariners insist it isn’t a big deal, and Lloyd McClendon doesn’t sound too worried. I think he means to be reassuring, but when it comes to shoulders, you can’t easily reassure.

As Danny Hultzen reminded us of. Hultzen’s shoulder problems were no big deal until they were the biggest of deals, and he’s not going to pitch this whole season. The rest of his career is up in the air, not that it wasn’t always, but now things are even more uncertain. At first, Hultzen just couldn’t get loose. He was basically day-to-day. Then he got cut open and important shoulder bits got patched up. Doctors have been optimistic, but that’s how you can damn a pitching career with faint praise.

The good news is this could really be almost nothing. Simple bursitis. You treat it with anti-inflammatories. Walker’s back to throwing in a week. Maybe he’s somehow still ready to go come Opening Day. Bursitis can be chronic, but if you want to be encouraged, you need look no further than Felix Hernandez. In June 2005, when Felix was 19 years old, he was diagnosed with bursitis. It wasn’t the first time he’d felt the symptoms. First, he was expected to miss one start. Then, he was held out of another. The Mariners, understandably, acted with caution. Felix didn’t start for something like a month, then for a brief time he worked out of the bullpen. Once he was fully back to normal, he was promoted from Tacoma and pitched like the perfect major-league pitcher. Since then he’s been Felix Hernandez. His shoulder hasn’t bothered him since. Bursitis isn’t a death sentence, if that’s all that there is. It can be no more worrisome than a moderate bruise.

Here’s the problem, even if this might seem a little irrational. Is bursitis all that there is? Walker’s second opinion confirmed the diagnosis, and MRI exams revealed no structural damage. The issue is that, oftentimes, MRI exams fail to identify structural damage. The only way for a doctor to know for sure what’s going on in a shoulder is to actually get into it. Imaging can tell you a lot, but it can’t tell you everything. It feels like a whole bunch of times I’ve read that a surgeon went in for a simple clean-up and was surprised to find a disaster zone. More significant shoulder problems can hide themselves, which is the root cause of all the worry. As long as a shoulder doesn’t feel right, that’s bad. You can get a diagnosis, complete with imaging, but that occupies a level in between facts and a guess. We can be pretty certain that Taijuan Walker has an inflamed bursa. Is that all? Sure hope so.

It’s easy to get carried away with worry, but then, worry is legitimate when you have a talented pitcher whose shoulder feels off. Walker, to our knowledge, isn’t broken, and he could be throwing normally again soon, but until that’s actually happening…look, we’re a nervous bunch, but I think we’ve earned it. And I might rather be worry-prone than over-confident. It’s a feeling, at least, and all we’re really here for is to feel.

Meantime, expect even more rumors about the Mariners looking to trade Nick Franklin for a starting pitcher. Already those rumors were going to dominate the spring, but given the Mariners’ 2014 plans and given the question marks they have in the rotation, there could be an even greater sense of urgency. It’s been reported that the Mets will be watching. It’s been reported that the Rays will be watching. Others, too, will call or get called, and though Taijuan Walker isn’t the reason Franklin will presumably get dealt, this isn’t lowering the odds. This front office can’t chance a bad season, and Franklin isn’t in position to make much of a difference, directly.


17 Responses to “Taijuan Walker Isn’t Dying”

  1. Westside guy on February 28th, 2014 9:28 am

    We are all dying, Jeff.

  2. Jeff Sullivan on February 28th, 2014 9:38 am

    yeah I know

  3. Jeff Sullivan on February 28th, 2014 9:38 am

    my bad

  4. RaoulDuke37 on February 28th, 2014 9:46 am

    What if Walkermania is Immortal? Brother.

  5. currcoug on February 28th, 2014 9:47 am

    I have always believed dealing Franklin could end up being a large mistake, and Zduriencik has a mixed record of getting back fair value. For once, I agree with Bowden…sign Santana, keep Franklin.

    However, if Franklin is part of a package to the Rays (for Price), I would like to see Kevin Kiermaier come back as part of the deal as well. Upside: true CF, can play all three OF positions, great range, solid speed, plus arm, solid work ethic. Downside: not much power, and bats left. Kiermaier seems to be the epitome of what McClendon likes in a player.

    Let’s hope Jeff’s Felix analogy proves to be the case with Walker.

  6. MrZDevotee on February 28th, 2014 10:32 am

    We need pitching MORE than an outfielder at this point… Sadly. Horrific-ly. Franklin to the Mets for Montero makes more sense, I think, although we’ll likely have to throw in something else now… Rays don’t NEED Franklin, as he’d become a part of a 3-headed backup infielder herd, so I’m not sure we’d get ANY return really from the Rays for him. I think for them he’s more of an insurance/type-of-guy-they-like-to-acquire situation… Low cost depth/versatility.

    With Walker and Iwakuma both ailing, Rafael Montero just makes more sense. Unless we do something stupid for David Price, but that would involve, undoubtedly, sending more things to Tampa than we want and taking on a lot of the Price contract. Both sucky options.

  7. MrZDevotee on February 28th, 2014 10:35 am

    Imaginary conversation between my burgeoning Mariner fan, 6 year old son and his father–

    Son- “Daddy, why can’t we have nice things?”

    Daddy- “GO TO YOUR ROOM!!! You’re gonna strain something on Robinson Cano!”

  8. currcoug on February 28th, 2014 10:52 am


    You may well be right, although our top prospects are mostly young pitchers (Gohara, Diaz, Sanchez, Leone, Pike, Smith, and Hultzen).

    On the other hand, the Mariners lack true CF defenders. Kiermaier would nicely solve that problem.

    Finally, the Rays interest in Franklin speaks volumes, and makes me nervous.

  9. maqman on February 28th, 2014 10:56 am

    He’ll get over it, so should the nervous Nellies.

  10. californiamariner on February 28th, 2014 11:03 am

    Came here to say what Westside guy said 🙁

    But yeah, this is the time of the year where everyone freaks out one way or the other. Whether it is freaking out about how good they’re going to because they hit a billion home runs or panicking over something that may not mean anything.

    On a positive note, it seems like Iwakuma’s injury may not be as terrible as we feared.

  11. hailcom on February 28th, 2014 11:08 am

    Nice historical note about Felix. Just a reminder that we really cannot know if it is nothing or something significant. We just don’t like the uncertainty with our prize prospect. Damn.

  12. Mariner.lovechild on February 28th, 2014 11:39 am

    Sign Santana. Should’ve been done already. No place for Franklin. Trade him.

  13. californiamariner on February 28th, 2014 11:46 am

    At what price though @Mariner.lovechild? It would be nice to have Santana, but is it worth crippling future moves? I’m sure they’re working on Franklin, but I’d rather hang on to him if you can’t get an adequate return.

  14. currcoug on February 28th, 2014 12:38 pm

    Juan Lagares would be an option, if the Mets put the moves on Franklin again. However, the Mets would have to offer a top pitching prospect for Franklin, in addition to Lagares.

    Kiermaier is the better defensive prospect, but Lagares does bat right handed and has had a bit more success with the bat.

  15. henryv on February 28th, 2014 2:42 pm

    I’ve already moved on from this season, in terms of competing. I simply can’t believe that a team with effectively no outfield can do much more than a 80-win season.

    Given that, I’d rather see Walker shut down, scoped, and see if he can come back after the All Star Break.

    See what OF help you can get for Franklin, I suppose, but in reality the M’s should be looking for a big trade for a top-tier OF prospect, even if it means giving up something you don’t want to give up.

  16. bookbook on February 28th, 2014 8:07 pm

    Every top Mariners prospect has to spend time practicing his sushi slice as well as his change up. Not that I’m nervous…

  17. Mariner.lovechild on March 2nd, 2014 9:12 pm

    cali mariner: cripple what other move? the right handed bat we missed? safeco’s a pitcher’s park, why not play to our strength (which certainly isn’t “dingers”)?? as for cost – I don’t know, something competitive, 2-3 years… he’s no more risk than any other pitcher, proven his worth, and durable.

    seems like a no brainer. glad Cano said something…

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