By Shannon Drayer
After the Mariners' 12-4 loss to the Rangers on Wednesday the team announced that right-hander Taijuan Walker will make his major-league debut Friday against Houston.
The Mariners were in need of a starter after designating Aaron Harang for assignment earlier in the week, and while there were other options on the 40-man roster it was determined that it was time to call up the 21-year-old old prized prospect who was drafted 43rd overall in 2010.
Prized pitching prospect Taijuan Walker, the 43rd overall pick in 2010, will make his major-league debut Friday. (AP)
A number of front office members were in attendance to watch Walker pitch when he made his last start in Tacoma on Aug. 20. On Tuesday, a day before this announcement was made, I asked general manager Jack Zduriencik what he saw in Walker's final outing in Tacoma.
"He was very impressive," Zduriencik said. "He's a great athlete with a very, very nice arm. He is a guy that has really come on. He has advanced nicely. He has always had a great arm but he has got a chance to be really good."
Landings for starters don't get much softer than an outing against the Astros in Houston. Like they did with Felix Hernandez back in 2005, the Mariners will get Walker his first start on the road. This can help take some of the pressure off a player who comes up with great expectations.
Walker will make that start coming off his final start as a Rainier last Sunday, a six-inning performance where he gave up one run on six hits, walked two and struck out nine. Between Double-A and Triple-A this year he has struck out 160 batters but has walked 57. His walk rate at Tacoma was the highest it has been at any level with 4.2 per nine innings.
Walks of late have been a bit of an issue for Walker, but one scout I talked to who saw him recently said that the walk numbers were not a huge concern for him as it appeared that Walker was focused on working on his secondary pitches. He is not one to just give in and go to the fastball, which is a weapon. According to the scout, Walker seemed committed to getting work on his other pitches.
What happens after the start Friday remains to be seen. The Mariners were targeting an innings limit around 160 for Walker and he is at 142. He could make the next start on regular rest, which would be Wednesday in Kansas City, or the Mariners could elect to go with a September callup for that start. If Walker pitches on regular rest to his innings limit we could see his first and last 2013 appearance at Safeco Field on Monday, Sept. 9 against the Astros.