Rehabbing 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 didn’t have much of a spring training. None really. A couple of simulated games here and there.
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“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 lefty James Paxton, who was diagnosed with inflammation in his shoulder after pitching three innings last 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 work prior to Friday’s game against Detroit and, barring any setbacks, pitch again Monday — presumably for Tacoma at El Paso.