Right-handed pitcher Taijuan Walker is following Erasmo Ramirez back to the Triple-A Tacoma because the Seattle Mariners plan to use Monday’s open date to bypass the fifth starter on their next cycle through the rotation.
Walker got the word after pitching five-plus innings in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the Mets.
“I know there are things I need to work on,” he said. “I’d rather come up here at my best so I can come up here and stay up here. So go down there, get my work done and, hopefully, come back and at my best.”
Manager Lloyd McClendon plans to have Hisashi Iwakuma, who starts Thursday against Baltimore, pitch Tuesday in Cleveland. He’ll be on normal rest because the Mariners have an off day Monday.
The Mariners are expected to replace Walker with a position player. They cleared space Wednesday for Walker by optioning Ramirez back to Tacoma after he pitched seven innings in Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to the Mets.
Monday’s open date means the Mariners won’t need a fifth starter until Aug. 2 in Baltimore. If all goes as expected, left-hander James Paxton figures to reclaim that spot after almost four months on the disabled list.
Paxton threw 60 pitches Tuesday in three innings in a rehab start at Tacoma in his recovery from a strained back muscle. He then threw 10 more pitches in the bullpen to build his endurance.
Barring setbacks, Paxton should throw 75-80 pitches in his next start at Tacoma, which would position him to step into the Aug. 2 slot against the Orioles.
If Paxton isn’t ready, the Mariners could also opt for Walker or Ramirez. Both would be eligible to return from the minors by Aug. 2.
The Mariners have an extra pick in the 2015 draft — the third pick after the second round — as a result of the competitive-balance lottery held Wednesday in New York.
The 13 clubs that either play in one of the 10 smallest markets or have one of the 10 lowest revenue pools were eligible for one of six picks after the first round (Competitive Balance Round A).
The seven clubs that didn’t win one of those picks, along with the Mariners and Minnesota Twins, went into a second lottery and were eligible for one of six picks after the second round (Competitive Balance Round B).
The Mariners and Twins qualified for the Round B selection only as clubs that currently receive revenue-sharing funds.
One distinguishing characteristic about competitive-balance picks is they can be traded in advance of the draft. Clubs are prohibited from trading regular draft picks.
The Round A winners (in order): Miami, Colorado, St. Louis, Milwaukee, San Diego and Cleveland.
The Round B winners (in order): Cincinnati, Oakland, Seattle, Minnesota, Baltimore and Arizona.
Eligible clubs that failed to get a pick: Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay.
It’s a distraction but, yes, Walker is paying attention as his name gets linked to various trade rumors.
“It’s kind of hard not to,” he said. “Especially when you’ve got family and friends always calling and asking … ‘Hey, you going here? You going there?’ That’s tough, but you try to block it out as much as possible.”
Walker said his mom is noticing, too.
“Yeah, she’s the worst,” he said. “I have to call her (and say), ‘Calm down, can’t do anything about it.’ ”
The nonwaiver trading deadline in 1 p.m. (PDT) July 31.
Make of this what you will but, entering Wednesday, the Mariners ranked fifth in three major computer models in assessing the postseason odds of the 15 American League clubs.
Five clubs make the postseason.
In each case, the Mariners ranked behind Oakland, Los Angeles, Detroit and Baltimore. And in each case, they had a reasonable margin over the No. 6 club.
Outfielder Dustin Ackley had a single in three at-bats and is 11-for-24 his past six games. … Lefty reliever Joe Beimel pitched 11/3 scoreless innings. He has allowed one earned run in 221/3 innings in 26 outings since May 2. … Outfielder James Jones needs one more steal to become the fourth rookie in club history to reach 20. The other three: Ichiro (56 in 2001), Phil Bradley (21 in 1984) and Donell Nixon (21 in 1987). … The two starting pitchers Wednesday — Taijuan Walker (21) and Bartolo Colon (41) — were born 19 years, 81 days apart. That’s the biggest age difference this season for two starters in any game.
It was three years ago Thursday — July 24, 2011 — that the Mariners set a franchise record by suffering a 15th consecutive loss when they fell 12-8 at Boston.
The previous record was 14 losses in a row from Sept. 2-18, 1992.
The 2011 skid hit 17 before the Mariners won 9-2 over the Yankees behind Felix Hernandez on July 27 in New York. The Mariners were .500 (43-43) when the skid started on July 6.
The Mariners open a four-game series against the Baltimore Orioles at 7:10 p.m. Thursday at Safeco Field. The two teams play seven times in the next 11 days.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (8-4, 2.95 ERA) will face Baltimore lefty Wei-Yin Chen (10-3, 4.21 ERA) in the series opener. Root Sports will broadcast the game.
The series continues Friday night and Saturday afternoon before concluding Sunday afternoon. After an open date Monday, the Mariners leave for a six-game trip to Cleveland and Baltimore.