PEORIA, Ariz. — So it turns out right-hander Taijuan Walker, the Mariners’ prize pitching prospect, isn’t OK after all.
Manager Lloyd McClendon revealed Friday that Walker will be shut down from all throwing activities for one week after a specialist in Los Angeles confirmed the presence of shoulder inflammation.
“He has some inflammation in the bursa,” McClendon said. “They’ll put him on anti-inflammatories. The plan is to not have him throw for seven days, and then get him back out on the mound.
“It’s a little bit of a setback. It is what it is, and we’ve just got to continue to move forward.”
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Walker reported shoulder soreness soon after arriving for spring training. Club officials responded by putting him on a go-slow regimen but continued to insist they saw no reason for concern.
But the problem persisted.
Walker hasn’t thrown from a mound since Feb. 20, and he flew to Los Angeles for a second opinion after testing his shoulder Tuesday and Wednesday by throwing long toss.
Dr. Neil ElAttrache of the Kerlan Jobe Clinic confirmed the diagnosis by Mariners medical director Dr. Ed Khalfayan: Walker has what club officials are characterizing as “minor inflammation in his right shoulder.”
Doctors say inflammation in the shoulder bursa can be indicative of other issues, such as rotator-cuff problems, but there is nothing in examinations to date to suggest Walker is at risk.
“The MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging exams) were clean,” McClendon said. “They were good. There was no structural damage with this guy. So everything is fine from that standpoint.”
Walker, 21, is generally viewed as the Mariners’ top prospect and viewed as a strong candidate to open the season in the club’s rotation. Even in a best-case scenario, that now appears in doubt.
“I’m not sure,” McClendon said. “That’s my hope, but we’ll see how it goes.”
This much seems certain: The Mariners will not push Walker in his recovery.
“This guy, we’re not just talking about 2014,” McClendon said. “Hopefully, we’re talking about the next 15 years. We have to be cautious, and we have to be smart.
“It’s frustrating for him, but I think it’s the best avenue to take — err on the side of being cautious as we continue to move forward with him.”
Walker’s injury is the second major setback in the Mariners’ rotation.
All-Star righty Hisashi Iwakuma has yet to throw from the mound after being diagnosed early in camp with a strained tendon in the middle finger of his pitching hand.
Plans called for Iwakuma to be reexamined Friday, but results aren’t expected to be known until Saturday. If all goes well, he could begin throwing next week.
Even if that happens, however, Iwakuma faces a stiff challenge to be conditioned for starting duty in time to open the season in the rotation. The Mariners could be looking to fill four slots behind ace Felix Hernandez.
“A lot of opportunities,” McClendon agreed, “and we have a lot of big arms. Hopefully, they can take advantage of those opportunities. We’ll see what happens.”
Erasmo Ramirez started the Cactus League opener Thursday and worked two scoreless innings in a 7-1 victory over San Diego. Rookie lefty James Paxton was scheduled for two innings Friday against Padres.
Other in line for opportunities: Veterans Scott Baker and Randy Wolf, who are both recovering from Tommy John surgery, are slotted for starts on Saturday and Sunday,
Blake Beavan and Ramirez are scheduled to start Monday in split-squad games. Beavan worked two scoreless innings in a piggyback start Thursday behind Ramirez against the Padres.
Hernandez makes his spring debut Tuesday before cycle returns to Paxton, Baker and Wolf.