Mariners' skipper McClendon pitches good updates

Staff writerApril 22, 2014 

Timelines have been a constant topic for Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon lately.

After losing four starting pitchers to injuries in the first three weeks of the season, McClendon is left providing daily updates.

Left-hander James Paxton (back strain) is looking at a six- to eight-week rehabilitation program, McClendon said Monday. That process is retroactive to April 8, when Paxton left the home opener early against the Los Angeles Angels.

Last week, Taijuan Walker was scratched from his rehabilitation start with the Tacoma Rainiers after experiencing shoulder tightness.

Walker said Monday that the pain he is experiencing is similar to the pain he felt during spring training. The Mariners decided Walker should take a break from pitching.

Walker is scheduled to see the team’s medical director, Dr. Edward Khalfayan, on Wednesday and hopes to begin throwing at the end of the week.

“I was feeling really good and came off a pretty good start,” Walker said. “Then I just woke up and it didn’t feel right. Didn’t feel normal. I didn’t want to go out and push things. Probably could have pitched.”

Walker, 21, has consistently gained weight since he was selected as a lean 18-year-old in the first round of the 2010 draft. He’s gained 30 pounds in three years, and lifting weights in the offseason is a possible contributor to his shoulder inflammation.

“That could have been it,” Walker said. “I was doing some older overhead shoulder workouts, but who knows what it was? Kind of came out of nowhere.”

The loss of Walker, Paxton, Hisashi Iwakuma and Blake Beavan has forced the Mariners to survive on a mix-and-match rotation. Roenis Elias, who started with Double-A Jackson, skipped Triple-A and went straight to the big leagues to start the season in the Mariners’ rotation. Veteran Chris Young made his first start since 2012 earlier in the season. Beavan had one poor outing prior to being placed on the 15-day disabled list. Erasmo Ramirez has been ineffective.

All of which is giving the bullpen a real beating.

Removing Felix Hernandez from the equation, Seattle starters have pitched 71† innings so far. The bullpen has thrown 55† innings before Monday’s game.

The Mariners have four relievers — Joe Beimel, Danny Farquhar, Dominic Leone and Yoervis Medina — on pace to throw more than 72 innings this season. Three are on pace to throw more than 81 innings.

“I think our bullpen is the backbone of this ballclub, but at the rate they have been asked to go out and perform, it just won’t work,” McClendon said. “We’ve got to get some quality innings from our starters.”

ACKLEY UP, MILLER DOWN

McClendon is also in search of lineup answers.

Dustin Ackley was moved up to hit second in the rotation. Shortstop Brad Miller was moved down to ninth. Struggling rookie Abraham Almonte (.221 average) remained in the leadoff spot.

Ackley has been one of the few Mariners hitters finding success. His .279 average coming into Monday was second only to Mike Zunino (.283).

“We’ve been playing with the lineup the last three or four days, trying to get a little more production,” McClendon said.

Ackley said earlier in the season that he tried to use the same approach no matter where he hit in the lineup but that hitting eighth was not “the ultimate goal.” He has been used as a leadoff hitter in the past.

McClendon said he doesn’t think players worry much about where they hit in the lineup.

"I think players care that they’re playing,” McClendon said. “Where you hit, beyond the first time, really doesn’t make a difference.”

COMING UP

Brandon Maurer is expected to make his second start of the season on Sunday vs. Texas. Seattle’s starters for the homestand are Ramirez on Tuesday, Young on Wednesday, Elias on Friday and Hernandez on Saturday.

ON TAP

The Mariners continue their six-game homestand Tuesday with the second of three games against Houston at Safeco Field. Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez (1-2, 7.50 ERA) will start against Astros right-hander Collin McHugh (making his season debut) at 7:10 p.m. Root Sports will broadcast the game.

todd.dybas@thenewstribune.com
@Todd_Dybas
blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners

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