Right-hander Taijuan Walker reported nothing more than ordinary soreness Thursday, one day after testing his recovery from a sore shoulder by working three innings in a rehab start at Triple-A Tacoma.
“It’s sore,” he said, “but it’s the normal soreness in the right spots. It’s nothing bad. I feel like I pitched yesterday.”
That doesn’t mean a return to the big-league rotation is imminent.
“He’s rusty,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Stuff is good, but he’s rusty. It’s going to take time. Walk (Walker) didn’t have much of a spring training. None really. A couple of simulated games here and there.
“He was on his way back before the soreness (resurfaced in mid-April). It’s going to take some time. We’ve got to get the rust off. I think the worst thing we could do is rush this young man back.”
McClendon said it’s likely Walker will require at least one or two more rehab starts — and to pitch effectively in those starts.
“If he was healthy in spring training,” McClendon said, “he’d have to make the club. Nothing was given. I think we’re under the assumption that he was given a spot on this club, and that’s just not the case.
“Now, I want him to do (well). Believe me, I want him here. But he’s got to prove that he’s healthy. He’s got to get the rust off. And he’s got to be ready to compete at this level on a consistent basis.
“It’s going to take a little time.”
Even so, Walker’s timetable now projects a quicker return than left-hander James Paxton, who was diagnosed with inflammation in his shoulder after pitching three innings Saturday in a rehab start.
Even in a best-case scenario, Paxton appears unlikely to return before mid-to-late June. His original injury, suffered April 8, was a strained back muscle.
Walker, 21, is generally viewed as the organization’s top prospect and projected as a likely candidate for the rotation before experiencing shoulder soreness in February.
The problem returned after he made two rehab starts in early April. His start Wednesday was his first game action since April 9. He worked two scoreless innings before yielding four runs on two homers in the third.
Walker also cited “rust” as his primary problem.
“It was that third inning,” he said, “I was leaving everything up. I wasn’t really locating my fastball, so I wasn’t able to throw anything else.”
Plans call for Walker to throw a routine bullpen session before Friday’s game against Detroit and, barring any setbacks, pitch again Monday — presumably for Tacoma at El Paso.
The Mariners scratched second baseman Robinson Cano from the lineup a little more than two hours before first pitch and cited “he’s not feeling well” as the reason.
Cano had started all 52 previous games and had appeared in 1,172 of 1,186 games since the start of the 2007 season. No player has appeared in more games during that span.
The Mariners compensated by shifting Nick Franklin from designated hitter to second base. Franklin also moved to second in the lineup, while right fielder Michael Saunders dropped from second to Cano’s No. 3 slot.
Stefen Romero replaced Franklin as the DH.
The Mariners open the concluding portion of their 11-game homestand at 7:10 p.m. Friday with the first of three weekend games against the Detroit Tigers at Safeco Field.
The series starts with a marquee pitching match-up of two All-Star right-handers: Hisashi Iwakuma (3-1, 2.39 ERA) against Detroit’s Justin Verlander (5-4, 4.04).
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