Taijuan Walker Diagnosed With Being A Pitcher

Jeff Sullivan · April 15, 2014 at 6:43 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Some of the absolute worst news to come out of camp was that Taijuan Walker was dealing with shoulder discomfort. Ain’t nothing for a young pitcher quite like shoulder discomfort. Shoulder discomfort can be nothing but a little setback, and shoulder discomfort can also be the beginning of the end of a promising career. If that’s a little over-dramatic, it isn’t a lot over-dramatic, and we’ve all been worried about Walker for weeks.

The word we got was that Walker was dealing with bursitis. Which left us in a certain position: if it was really just bursitis, Walker would be fine with rest and anti-inflammatories. But the thing about shoulder exams is that imaging doesn’t always pick up things that are actually wrong in there, and sometimes issues are only revealed upon surgical intervention. So with Walker, we all hoped it was just bursitis, but I don’t think anyone was going to breathe easy until Walker was back on a big-league mound.

Walker was making some great progress. Tonight his rehab was to advance to Triple-A Tacoma. The thing about that is:

The other day, it looked like Walker was on the verge of a return to the Mariners rotation. Now he’s in a place where he’ll be re-evaluated tomorrow, and while it’s possible this could be nothing but a little random, insignificant stiffness, the Danny Hultzen flashbacks are vivid and looping over and over in every part of my brain.

Check out the time-stamps, in case you’d forgotten. The Hultzen saga started as something that was “not worrisome“. Just needed some time. Then he needed more time, then he needed major surgery that threatens a pitcher’s career and therefore livelihood. Hultzen required one of the worst possible operations, and the parallels between his case and Walker’s are chilling. Granted, Hultzen wasn’t diagnosed with bursitis, and granted, they have very different shoulders, but when it comes to a pitcher’s shoulder, the less you hear about it, the better. We’re hearing more about Walker’s, just as it looked like he was past his issues, and it doesn’t take much of a mental leap to imagine the worst. We’ve seen the worst, and we know how the worst plays out. Taijuan Walker could be okay, but if he had real shoulder trouble, this is how that would be going.

So. Hultzen’s already had his shoulder opened and touched, all over the place. Now Walker’s shoulder is giving him the business, for reasons people haven’t yet nailed down. James Paxton is on the disabled list with an injury near his shoulder, and while there’s some optimism there, there was optimism with Walker, too. Erasmo Ramirez is healthy but pitching like he isn’t. Brandon Maurer only just got returned to a minor-league starting rotation. The dependable youngster in the rotation right now might be Roenis Elias, and a few months ago almost literally no one even knew who he was. If I’d told you the name “Roenis Elias” in January I bet you would’ve stared at me blankly. Now, granted, it’s great that Elias is here and pitching all right, and he has one hell of a phenomenal story. His stuff could actually play in the majors long-term. But consider the circumstances under which Elias was able to make this rotation in the first place. Consider the circumstances under which Elias now seems like a rotation lock for the foreseeable future. I don’t know if this counts as a nightmare quite yet, but we’re at least going to bed after watching a scary movie, and it’s windy outside this big empty house. Also, hold on a second, nightmares aren’t real. Pitching injuries are extremely real. Upsettingly real in upsettingly elevated numbers.

It seemed like Taijuan Walker was going to be okay. For all I know, he might still be okay, and just a little sore for reasons no one has to worry about. Young pitchers can make one feel like an over-anxious parent. But then, the children of over-anxious parents get in trouble like all the time, which is why they’re over-anxious in the first place. The 2007 Mariners managed to bum us out while being over .500. The 2014 Mariners are finding a different way to do the same thing. May all your sweet Mariners feelings be both sweet and bitter. May the good never be unaccompanied by the dejecting.


26 Responses to “Taijuan Walker Diagnosed With Being A Pitcher”

  1. MrZDevotee on April 15th, 2014 7:14 pm

    Worst possible, absolutely depressing news. Crap. Okay, not “worst possible”, but not what we wanted to hear.

  2. Westside guy on April 15th, 2014 7:20 pm

    When a pitcher has a sore shoulder, maybe right away they should just have a surgeon dive in there the very next day and see what’s going on. The whole “give him a few days rest and then reevaluate” thing never seems to actually work.

    I am not sure if I’m kidding or not.

  3. PackBob on April 15th, 2014 8:29 pm

    The rotation of the future already seems like a ghost of the past. With Paxton and Walker, and Iwakuma coning back, this offense with Cano seemed just enough to warrant optimism. With yet another shutout today, it seems woefully inadequate.

    Bad day in Black Rock.

  4. Liam on April 15th, 2014 8:31 pm

    And hey, Blake Beavan had a stiff shoulder tonight and left after 4 innings.

  5. Longgeorge1 on April 15th, 2014 9:31 pm

    Westside – it’s not like opening the hood of your car and looking around. Wandering around a shoulder with a scalpel would destroy a perfectly healthy shoulder. The reason shoulder surgery is so iffy is the complexity of the structure.

  6. smb on April 15th, 2014 11:24 pm

    I knew this arc of sadness seemed familiar for some reason. Ahhh I really hope he doesn’t need surgery, but I’ll now officially be surprised if he comes up and stays healthy the rest of the year. Surgery and shutdown seems more likely than that…I hope that’s just my damaged-goods-Ms-fan side speaking.

  7. maqman on April 16th, 2014 1:57 am

    Can a 3-D printer do a shoulder? Hey, it’s worth a shot.

  8. stevemotivateir on April 16th, 2014 7:21 am

    I’ll never understand why pitchers don’t learn how to throw with both arms. It would give them distinct match-up advantages and make injuries less likely to result in time on the DL.

  9. stevemotivateir on April 16th, 2014 9:34 am

    So, Nick Franklin has been brought up. I don’t hate this move, but I do wonder where/how they’ll play him. Hopefully not at the expense of Miller. It’s a bit early to start benching him.

  10. Westside guy on April 16th, 2014 9:53 am

    Steve, I expect the org will run Franklin out there in right field, despite him not playing RF at all so far in AAA.

    Really there aren’t any spots for him that make sense. It’d be dumb to replace Miller at this point in time, it’d be dumb to have him replace Seager, and it’d be dumb to put him in right.

  11. stevemotivateir on April 16th, 2014 10:49 am

    You know Westy, as I wrote that, I was trying to convince myself that there is no way he’ll play right field. I suppose we could see Hart in RF and Franklin DHing, though. I don’t like that idea, but it would be better than Franklin in the outfield.

    McClendon’s made some odd decisions already. I’ll admit I’m a little nervous to see how this plays out.

  12. californiamariner on April 16th, 2014 11:13 am

    It’s pretty crazy that the Mariners rotation has produced the 5th lowest ERA in baseball so far with all of the injuries. 1, there’s no way that continues if these guys continue pitching. 2, the offense has been far more inconsistent than the pitching. The pitching has actually been pretty good, especially given the circumstances.

  13. Westside guy on April 16th, 2014 11:31 am

    I will say I’m not opposed to giving Miller or Seager a “breather” – I just don’t want to hear things like “he wasn’t getting the job done so we’re giving it to someone else” after 60 plate appearances.

    I also think Almonte could stand a “breather” now and then.

  14. Jay Yencich on April 16th, 2014 12:29 pm

    If I’d told you the name “Roenis Elias” in January I bet you would’ve stared at me blankly.

    I would win that bet >:(

    Anyway. If I were uncomfortable with speculation I probably wouldn’t be in this racket, so I’ll drop this: Taijuan Walker was known to be throwing a lot in the offseason in preparation for spring training and would’ve been ahead of the game until his arm pooped out. Erasmo threw about thirty innings in the offseason (Still less than I thought he did) and now is looking not quite right. Felix has never been permitted to do anything in the offseason and he’s the best pitcher around. Mayhap we should keep a closer eye on what pitchers do with themselves in the offseason, so as to ensure they recover adequately from the rigours of their work?

  15. bookbook on April 16th, 2014 12:48 pm

    Nope. Evidently we can’t check in on Montero’s diet, Franklin’s diet, or what any of our pitchers get up to over the offseason… It’s just the way it is.

  16. Jay Yencich on April 16th, 2014 1:11 pm

    Nope. Evidently we can’t check in on Montero’s diet, Franklin’s diet, or what any of our pitchers get up to over the offseason… It’s just the way it is.

    I can’t believe that you failed to mention that time that Chris Snelling wandered around in the Australian outback amidst everything deadly for three months of an offseason just sort of because.

  17. californiamariner on April 16th, 2014 1:26 pm

    Apparently Franklin is the DH tonight. My panic meter went down a little.

  18. Westside guy on April 16th, 2014 2:27 pm

    It will be interesting to see which Franklin shows up – the one who’s been tearing up AAA, or the one who was stinking up the joint the end of 2013.

    Mac has already said he’ll be playing “some” outfield, CM – so you might want to break out the Valium.

  19. msfanmike on April 16th, 2014 3:09 pm

    The “tearing it up against AAA starters version of Nick Franklin” is probably going to have his hands full with Yu Darvish. And I suspect the rest of the lineup will too. And the rest of the league … for the rest of the season.

    I would much rather see Nick and and James Jones up with LoMo and Bevan down, though. At least it feels a hell of a lot better. And at this point, the important thing to me is how I feel about things.

  20. stevemotivateir on April 16th, 2014 3:26 pm

    Starting Franklin immediately against Darvish is a hell of a welcoming.

  21. californiamariner on April 16th, 2014 4:00 pm

    I think the idea for Nick Franklin to play 2B, SS, 3B, OF like McClendon talked about is a good idea. He could be a valuable player to have if he hits and does well enough defensively. But, why wouldn’t you start this process a couple months back? Or at least practice some OF in the minors? Before sending him to the majors and giving him the role.

  22. unkrusty on April 16th, 2014 4:16 pm
  23. Longgeorge1 on April 16th, 2014 4:24 pm

    I can think of three outfielders from last year that will make Franklin look like a gold glover in the outfield

  24. Mariner Melee on April 16th, 2014 4:28 pm

    Via Link

    Posterior Labral Tears: Posterior labral tears are less common, but sometimes seen in athletes in a condition called internal impingement. In this syndrome, the rotator cuff and labrum are pinched together in the back of the shoulder.

    ….Please, no

  25. californiamariner on April 16th, 2014 4:42 pm

    I fully expect to see zero innings from Taijuan in a Mariners uniform this year. I can’t believe it is happening again so soon after Hultzen.

  26. HighlightsAt11 on April 16th, 2014 4:55 pm

    And James Jones just brought up. Beavan to 15DL.

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