Seattle Mariners

Mariners notebook: Chris Young’s status in rotation now in doubt

Put an asterisk next to Chris Young’s name in listing the next cycle through the Seattle Mariners’ rotation.

Manager Lloyd McClendon declined to commit to Young as a starter for Saturday’s game at Texas after a second consecutive poor outing in Monday’s 6-1 loss to Oakland.

The concern is that Young, after 151 innings in a career-resurrection season, might be hitting a wall just as the Mariners are mounting a push to try to end a 12-year postseason drought.

“He threw seven starts in the minor leagues last year,” McClendon said. “He’s in uncharted territory. I’ve got to watch him. I’ve got to evaluate him. I’ve got to make a decision.”

If Young is deemed to be a risk, McClendon acknowledged right-hander Taijuan Walker as a likely replacement. Walker limited the A’s to one run in six innings Monday in mop-up duty behind Young.

Walker’s performance came on the day he was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma and after he got a “show me” challenge from McClendon.

“Obviously, he pitched extremely well,” McClendon said. “I think it showed you what he’s capable of. We’ve just got to get him to the point where he can be consistent every time out with that.”

Young has provided the Mariners with an unexpected boost this season by going 12-7 with a 3.46 ERA, but he’s 35 and and hasn’t pitched more than 115 innings since 2007 because of shoulder issues.

Further, his last two starts have been his worst: a combined eight runs, 11 hits and seven walks over 41/3 innings.

“Every pitcher goes through a period during the season,” Young said, “when they don’t throw the ball as well (as usual). Mine is right now. I’m going to get through it, keep working, and I’m going to finish strong.”

He passed that message to McClendon when the two talked after Monday’s game. McClendon remains unconvinced.

“What concerns me is command because he’s not a power guy,” McClendon said. “When he starts to lose command, I’m a little concerned about it.

“He assured me that he felt healthy, and I assured him that I would do what I thought was best for this club. I’m going to evaluate in the next day or two, and make a decision.”

Those evaluations will come through Young’s regular between-starts bullpen workout and other on-field activities.

“If I deem him 100 percent healthy,” McClendon said, “he’ll start.”

If not, it figures to be Walker.

ANSWERING CHALLENGE

Walker acknowledged he needs to “step up” in response to McClendon’s tough-love approach.

“My three (previous) outings in the big leagues weren’t very good,” he said. “But my last four down in Triple-A were very good, and I’ve been throwing the ball well.”

Walker, at 22, remains the most-heralded prospect in the Mariners’ organization because of his high-octane potential. But he’s closing out a tough year that began when shoulder soreness surfaced in spring training.

After three months of stop-and-start lurching through rehab, Walker returned to make three big-league starts wrapped roughly around the All-Star break.

His overall numbers weren’t terrible — six runs in 15 innings — but his command issues (13 walks) convinced the Mariners that a remedial tour in the minors was necessary.

Walker struggled through his first two starts at Tacoma before sharpening his game: He worked at least six innings in his past four starts while allowing 10 runs in 25 innings.

“I just kept everything simple,” he said. “Something just clicked, and it’s just kind of been right. I’ve just been keeping everything the same.”

More important, perhaps, Walker showed renewed power and better command in those four starts: 35 strikeouts and eight walks, which earned him a September recall to the big leagues.

That recall came accompanied by McClendon’s pointed challenge. A day later, McClendon reinforced his demand.

“I don’t expect him to act like a 22-year-old,” he said. “I expect him to act like a 30-year-old. I expect him to perform like a veteran. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”

RECALLED

The Mariners, as expected, recalled pitchers James Paxton and Erasmo Ramirez from Triple-A Tacoma prior to Tuesday’s game.

Paxton immediately reclaimed his spot in the rotation and started Tuesday’s game against the A’s at O.co Coliseum. Ramirez will pitch as a long reliever over the season’s closing weeks.

The Mariners had to wait for Tacoma’s season to end before they could recall Paxton and Ramirez because neither had served the minimum 10 days in the minors after being optioned to the Rainiers.

MILLER SURGING

Infielder Brad Miller drew a third consecutive start Tuesday largely because he shows signs of putting together an encouraging close to what has been a disappointing season.

Miller is batting .318 in limited action (7-for-18) in 12 games since Aug. 11. The mini-surge has him back on the north side of the “Mendoza Line” at .207 entering Tuesday’s game against the A’s.

The turnaround followed a 6-for-43 plunge over 16 games from July 7 to Aug. 7, which helped turn rookie Chris Taylor into the club’s starting shortstop.

Miller hit his ninth home of the season in Monday’s loss, which means he needs one more to become the fourth shortstop in franchise history to reach double figures.

Alex Rodriguez did it five times. Rey Quinones did it twice, and Todd Cruz did it once.

Further, only one AL shortstop currently has more homers than Miller: Chicago’s Alexei Ramirez has 13.

UPDATED ODDS

The Mariners improved their odds of winning the World Series over the last month, according to Bovada, an online gaming service. The Mariners are now a 25-1 shot after being rated at 33-1 on Aug. 1.

Bovada installs the Los Angeles Angels as the favorite at 5-1, followed by the Los Angeles Dodgers (11-2), Washington Nationals (7-1), and Baltimore Orioles and Oakland A’s (each at 8-1).

Despite a few shaky recent starts, Mariners ace Felix Hernandez remains a heavy favorite to be the American League’s Cy Young winner at 1-3 odds. Chicago lefty Chris Sale is second at 3-1.

Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano is Bovada’s second choice as the AL Most Valuable Player at 5-1. The heavy favorite is Angels outfielder Mike Trout at 1-2.

SHORT HOPS

Overlooked, somewhat, in the Dodgers’ decision Monday to promote outfielder Joc Peterson, their top prospect, was they cleared space on their 40-man roster by designating ex-Mariners infielder Carlos Triunfel for assignment. ... The A’s recalled left-hander Drew Pomeranz and first baseman Nate Freiman from Low-A Beloit prior to Tuesday’s game. ... The Angels selected the contract of former Mariners catcher John Buck from Triple-A Salt Lake City.

MINOR AWARDS

Double-A Jackson third baseman D.J. Peterson was picked as Baseball America’s prospect hitter of the day Monday after closing his season by going 4-for-6 with two homers and five RBIs in a 13-6 victory over Montgomery.

Peterson, 22, was the club’s first-round pick in 2013 and is generally regarded its top non-pitching prospect. He opened the season with 65 games at High-A High Desert before playing 58 games at Jackson.

Combined numbers for 123 games: 31 homers, 111 RBIs and a .297 average. He also had a .360 on-base percentage and a .552 slugging percentage.

LOOKING BACK

It was 38 years ago Wednesday — Sept. 3, 1976 — that the Mariners hired Darrell Johnson to be their first manager. He had been fired earlier in the year by Boston after guiding the Red Sox to the 1975 World Series.

Johnson, 48 at the time, managed the Mariners for three-plus seasons before getting fired on Aug. 3, 1980 with the club in a 5-22 spin. Maury Wills was Johnson’s replacement.

Johnson managed briefly again in 1982 when he guided the Rangers over their final 66 games as a replacement for Don Zimmer. Johnson finished with a 472-590 managerial record over parts of eight seasons.

He died, at age 75, in 2004.

ON TAP

The Mariners and A’s conclude their three-game series at 12:35 p.m. Wednesday at the O.co Coliseum. Right-hander Felix Hernandez (13-5 with a 2.33 ERA) will oppose Oakland lefty Jon Lester (13-9, 2.55).

Root Sports will televise the game.

The Mariners then head to Texas for four weekend games against the Rangers.

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.com

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