SEATTLE — Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker acknowledges off-season surgery as a likely possibility to resolve his ongoing problems with tendinitis in his right foot.
Plans call for Walker to shed his walking boot Sunday and to begin a throwing program on Monday. His hope is he can return to active duty within two weeks but, for now, any timetable comes with fingers crossed.
"It sucks that it’s something that aggravates every time I go out there to pitch," he said. "I got a cortisone (shot) in a different spot so, hopefully, this time around, with extra rest, we’ll knock it out so I can get through a whole game without feeling anything."
Walker underwent an examination and treatment July 10 by Dr. Bob Anderson, a foot-and-ankle specialist in Charlotte, N.C., after previous efforts to resolve the problem failed to produced desired results.
Anderson told Walker that problem stems primarily from a bone in his foot that is too long. Anderson also said the problem is not unusual and is easily correctable — with surgery.
"Obviously, surgery would get rid of it completely," Walker said. "The bone is too long, so it keeps jamming and causing inflammation. I guess they just have to cut a piece of the bone off.
"I’d rather just get it done so that I don’t have the same problem next year. It’s definitely an off-season thing. But who knows? Maybe this (latest shot and rest) really helps it, and I don’t have to worry about it."
Walker said he’s experienced the problem throughout the season, but that it didn’t become a problem until a June 14 start at Tampa Bay. He and the Mariners are hoping that rest and treatment can get him back to his early-season form.
"I’ve had it pretty much all year," Walker said. "In the beginning of the year, it wasn’t bad. So I was able to pitch with it. It was just a little sore, but it wasn’t bad at all.
"I think I must have jammed it or something pretty bad because it really flared up. Hopefully, I can get most of the inflammation out so that it’s tolerable to pitch with it."
Walker was 2-0 with a 1.44 ERA through his first four starts but is just 2-7 with a 4.57 ERA in 12 starts since May 1. He hasn’t pitched since his foot problem forced his exit from a July 5 start at Houston after just four innings.
"It’s frustrating," he said, "because I feel I’ve got to the point where I figured a lot of stuff out, mentally and physically, with my stuff. My mechanics, I’d really figured things out.
"But I haven’t been able to put it to use because I’ve been focusing on this (foot problem). It’s frustrating. When I come back, I can’t think about it at all. I just have to pitch."
KING FEELING GOOD
Right-hander Felix Hernandez was back in the Mariners’ clubhouse Saturday and bemoaning a problem familiar to many — the heavy traffic and long commute time between Seattle and Tacoma.
That aside, Hernandez found little not to like regarding his rehab outing Friday, when he allowed just one run over 5 2/3 innings for the Triple-A Rainiers in their 4-1 victory over Colorado Springs.
"Everything was fine," he said. "My pitches were working pretty good. Good mechanics. Way better than when I was in Everett (on July 10 in his previous rehab start in his recovery from a strained right calf muscle)."
Hernandez is scheduled to be activated from the disabled list in time to make a July 20 start against the Chicago White Sox at Safeco Field. It will be his first big-league start since May 27.
"I’m back," he said. "I’m good. If they need me for nine innings, I’ll be there for nine innings. No restrictions."
SLIDE DRILLS FOR MARTE
Shortstop Ketel Marte, when he recovers from a sprained right ankle, can expect some extra work in an effort to improve his technique on sliding into bases.
Marte suffered the injury Friday on a slide at third. He previously missed 13 games from May 22 to June 5 because of a sprained left thumb suffered on a slide at second base in Cincinnati.
"We’ve put a plan together," manager Scott Servais said. "We’ve got to tighten up Ketel’s sliding. It’s an issue. His technique is poor. That’s where the injuries have come from.
"If you’re going to play every day in this league, you have to be able to do the fundamental things the game requires. Sliding is one of them."
Marte could be ready to play as soon as Sunday.
***Designated hitter Nelson Cruz was a late scratch Saturday because of a bruised left foot, which resulted from a foul ball in Friday’s loss to the Astros.
"He did it eight days ago in Houston," Servais said. "Same spot again. I’m hoping to get both of them (Cruz and Marte) back in there (Sunday)."
Injured catcher Steve Clevenger is departing Sunday for the organization’s year-round complex in Peoria, Ariz., to continue his recovery from a broken bone in his right hand.
Clevenger suffered a broken third metacarpal — the bone in the hand below the knuckle of the middle finger — on June 29 when hit on the knuckle by a foul off the bat of Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen.
Surgery on July 1 inserted a plate and six screws into Clevenger’s hand.
"I’m able to pick things up," he said. "I’m able to move it a lot more. The middle finger is still a little limp. We’re going to strengthen it up in Arizona."
Clevenger said he hopes to be ready to play in early September when eligible to be activated from the 60-day disabled list.
FINAL DRAFT COUNT
The Mariners signed 22 of their first 23 picks in the MLB Draft prior to Friday’s deadline. In all, they signed 28 of their 40 picks. While numbers are unofficial, the Mariners are believed to have spent $7,574,700 on their 28 signings.
The club’s bonus-pool allotment was $7,136,000, but that only applies to selections in the first 10 rounds and any bonus above $100,000 for other players. Unofficial numbers say they spent $6,901,700 of their pool allotment.
Hi-A Bakersfield catcher Tyler Marlette hit two homers and drove in all five runs Friday in a 5-1 victory over Modesto (Rockies). The Blaze improved to 17-5 in the second half and leads second-place Stockton (Athletics) by seven games.
Marlette, 23, raised his average to .268 and now has 12 homers and 41 RBIs in 56 games. A fifth-round pick in 2011, he entered the season ranked No. 10 on the TNT Top 10 list of the organization’s prospects.
***Lo-A Clinton left-hander Luiz Gohara remained on a roll when he held South Bend (Cubs) to two runs in six innings in a 4-2 victory. Gohara, 19, is a combined 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA in six starts at Clinton and Short-A Everett.
Kaiea Higa, a 12-year-old from Maple Valley, will cap off a big week Sunday when she throws out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the series finale between the Mariners and Houston Astros at Safeco Field.
Higa won the national title for her age group last Monday when she represented the Mariners in Major League Baseball’s Pitch, Hit and Run softball division competition during All-Star Week festivities at Petco Park in San Diego.
She qualified for the finals June 12 at Safeco Field by amassing one of the top three scores among the team championships staged by all 30 clubs. She plays for the 12-and-under Washington Acers fast-pitch team.
It was 37 years ago Sunday — July 17, 1979 — that the Kingdome served as the site for the 50th All-Star Game and drew a Seattle-record crowd of 58,905. The starting pitchers were future Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan and Steve Carlton.
Mariners first baseman Bruce Bochte had an RBI single in the American League’s 7-6 loss to the National League.
Thirteen players had at least three plate appearances.
The Mariners and Astros conclude their three-game series at 1:10 p.m. Sunday at Safeco Field. Left-hander Mike Montgomery (3-3 with a 2.06 ERA) will make his second start when he faces Houston right-hander Collin McHugh (5-6, 4.50).
Injuries in the rotation prompted the Mariners to turn to Montgomery for a July 10 start in Kansas City, and he responded by holding the Royals to one run in 6 1/3 innings.
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners
MARINERS 2016 DRAFT PICKS
Round Player BONUS CLUB
1 (11) OF Kyle Lewis $3,286,700 Everett
2 (50) 3B Joe Rizzo $1,750,000 Peoria
3 (87) SS Bryson Brigman $700,000 Everett
4 (117) LHP Thomas Burrows $450,000 Everett
5 (147) INF Donnie Walton $125,000 Everett
6 (177) RHP Brandon Miller $250,000 Everett
7 (207) RHP Matt Festa $5,000 Everett
8 (237) UTL Nick Zammarelli $150,000 Everett
9 (267) C Jason Goldstein $25,000 Everett
10 (297) INF David Greer $135,000 Everett
11 (327) RHP Michael Koval $10 Everett
12 (357) LHP Timothy Viehoff Everett
13 (387) RHP Reggie McClain Everett
14 (417) RHP Kyle Davis Everett
15 (447) LHP Danny Garcia Everett
16 (477) C Lyle Lin NOT SIGNED
17 (507) LF Dimas Ojeda Peoria
18 (537) RHP Robert Dugger Peoria
19 (567) CF DeAires Moses Peoria
20 (597) RF Eric Filia Everett
21 (627) CF Austin Grebeck Everett
22 (657) CF Jansiel Rivera Peoria
23 (687) RHP Jack Anderson Everett
24 (717) CF Trey Griffey NOT SIGNED
25 (747) CF Ryan Fucci NOT SIGNED
26 (777) LHP Elliot Surrey Everett
27 (807) RHP Paul Covelle Everett
28 (837) RHP Nathan Bannister N/A
29 (867) RHP Steven Ridings Peoria
30 (897) CF Tyler Duncan NOT SIGNED
31 (927) RHP Lincoln Henzman NOT SIGNED
32 (957) RHP Kenyon Yovan NOT SIGNED
33 (987) SS Morgan McCullough NOT SIGNED
34 (1017) RHP David Ellingson Peoria
35 (1047) RHP Will Ethridge NOT SIGNED
36 (1077) 2B Joseph Venturino Peoria
37 (1107) C Eli Wilson NOT SIGNED
38 (1137) RHP James Reilly NOT SIGNED
39 (1167) SS Camryn Williams NOT SIGNED
40 (1197) C Adley Rutschman NOT SIGNED
Bonuses are shown for players selected in the first 10 rounds because those picks have an assigned slot value from Major League Baseball. The total slot value for the Mariners’ picks is $7,136,000.
The amount of any bonus in excess of $100,000 for picks after the 10th round is also counted against the pool allotment. Unofficial numbers show the Mariners spent $6,901,700 of their pool allotment.