TORONTO — Even if the Mariners aren’t playing in October, there’s a good chance that rookie right-hander Taijuan Walker will be. The same goes for rookie lefty James Paxton.
Manager Lloyd McClendon said the organization’s desire to see both pitchers log extra innings after injury-interrupted seasons makes it likely each will pitch in the Arizona Fall League or winter ball.
“We’ll see which direction we go in,” McClendon said. “(Walker) needs to continue to pitch and stretch out. So we’ll extend those innings this year. Paxton needs to extend as well.”
Walker, 22, worked eight strong innings Wednesday in a 1-0 loss to the Blue Jays for a second straight encouraging start since returning from Triple-A Tacoma.
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“They are good starts to end the regular season on,” he said. “My last two starts felt really good. I felt like I was in a pretty good groove. It’s something to build on for next year.”
A sore shoulder, which surfaced in spring training, limited Walker to 120 1/3 innings this season between the Mariners and his various minor-league stops. He pitched 156 1/3 innings in 2013.
Paxton, 25, has pitched just 81 1/3 innings going into his scheduled start Saturday against the Angels at Safeco Field. He missed nearly four months because of a strained back muscle suffered in April.
A year ago, Paxton logged 169 2/3 innings.
Paxton said he hasn't yet heard from club officials about pitching in the Fall League or winter ball.
The likely plan for both pitchers would be a few starts totaling perhaps 20 or so innings.
“That makes sense to get my innings up,” Walker said. “I didn’t really throw that much this year. A couple of starts.”
TOP PICK CITED
Despite missing a month because of a broken cheek bone, outfielder Alex Jackson was picked by Baseball America as the top prospect in the Arizona Rookie League.
Jackson, 18, was the Mariners’ first-round pick (sixth overall) in last June’s draft. A catcher in high school, he converted to the outfield after reaching agreement on a $4.2 million signing bonus.
“Generally regarded as the top high school bat in this year’s draft,” Baseball America wrote, “Jackson came as advertised in his pro debut.”
Jackson batted .274 (23-for-84) in 24 games for Peoria with a .337 on-base percentage and a .464 slugging percentage. He had two homers and 16 RBIs.
“Jackson swings hard, with plus bat speed and plus-plus power,” Baseball America wrote, “but he will need to make better contact and cut down on strikeouts.
“Despite his outfield mishap, he made progress in the field and flashed a plus arm. He’s a good athlete and an average runner for his size.”
Jackson was the only Mariners’ prospect cited on Baseball America’s Top 20 list.
Of note: Five years ago, the magazine cited Angels outfielder Mike Trout as the league’s top prospect. Mariners outfielder Julio Morban was No. 6 on that 2010 list.
The Mariners got just their second complete game by a starting pitcher Wednesday when Walker went eight innings in a 1-0 loss to the Blue Jays. The only other complete game was by rookie lefty Roenis Elias on June 1 in 4-0 victory over Detroit at Safeco Field. Elias allowed three hits in nine innings…Second baseman Robinson Cano served as the designated hitter for the first time since Aug. 27 in order to rest his legs after three days on artificial turf at the Rogers Centre…Wednesday’s game was played in 1 hour, 59 minutes. It was the first American League game played in less than two hours since Kansas City lost 4-0 at Tampa Bay in 1:53 on Aug. 9, 2011.
FAN APPRECIATION NIGHT
Friday’s series opener against the Angels is Fan Appreciation Night at Safeco Field. Activities include a random drawing each half-inning for various prizes.
The Mariners say those prizes include (deep breath):
Two Holland America Line cruises, two pairs of round-trip Alaska Airlines tickets, a 2015 Grand Slam Spring Training tour package, getaways to Suncadia Resort, the Fairmont Empress in Victoria, British Columbia, and Skamania Lodge.
Other prizes include a $250 Seattle Mariners Team Store gift card, flat screen TV, Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet and a one-year unlimited T-Mobile data plan, the chance to watch an inning of Friday’s game with Edgar Martinez, and a variety of autographed jerseys, caps and baseballs.
The annual team awards will be presented to the player of the year, pitcher of the year and unsung hero by chairman Ryan Divish of the Seattle Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
The Mariners will present the fifth annual Fan of the Year awards. All fans will receive a team poster with a preview of the 2015 schedule.
It was five years ago Friday — Sept. 26, 2009 — that Ichiro Suzuki was ejected from a game for the first time in his career…without saying a word.
The incident occurred in the fifth inning against the Blue Jays in Toronto after Suzuki was called out on strikes by umpire Brian Runge on a pitch from David Purcey.
Suzuki took a few steps back, stuck out his bat, leaned over the plate and drew a line in the dirt, indicating that he thought the pitch was outside.
That was enough.
The Mariners open their final series of the season at 7:10 p.m. Friday when they meet the Los Angeles Angels in the first of three weekend games at Safeco Field.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (14-9 with a 3.54 ERA) will oppose Angels right-hander Jered Weaver (18-8, 3.52). Root Sports will televise the game.
The series continues at 6:10 p.m. Saturday before concluding at 1:10 p.m. Sunday.