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MLB Team Report - Seattle Mariners - INSIDE PITCH
The coronation of righty Taijuan Walker will have to wait, as his second major league start went a little worse than the first on Wednesday, but the Mariners like to believe their top prospect will be better for the experience.
Walker got touched up for four runs in the fourth inning of Wednesday's loss to Kansas City, providing a rare dose of adversity since his promotion from Double-A to Triple-A in late June. Walker tore up Triple-A and went on to win his first major league start without allowing an earned run, so his five-inning, four-run performance this week marked the first time he showed some flaws.
Manager Eric Wedge kept Walker on the mound to finish out the fourth inning, then brought him back out for a seamless fifth. In the long run, it could prove to be an invaluable outing for Walker, who will undoubtedly need to work his way through struggles in the future.
Walker's current stint, which is only expected to last one more start because of a pre-arranged limit to the number of innings he throws this season, is mostly about getting a look at Walker against big-league hitters, giving him some experience at the highest level, and maybe giving the 21-year-old right-hander some confidence heading into the offseason.
Barring a disastrous start in his next outing, Walker has probably shown enough to provide a little bit on all those accounts. Seeing him struggle might not have been part of the plan, but it could work out in the long run for a team that is way out of playoff contention.
The jury is still out on just how ready Walker is for the major leagues, but his first two starts have given some glimpses of stardom, a boost of confidence and some school-of-hard-knocks training as he tries to mature into a full-time starter at the next level.
MLB Team Report - Seattle Mariners - NOTES, QUOTES
STREAK: Won one
PAST 10 GAMES: 5-5
NEXT: Rays (Chris Archer, 6-6, 3.14) vs. Mariners (James Paxton, MLB debut)
--LF Raul Ibanez is finally finding his home-run stroke again. On Friday night, he homered for the second consecutive game, giving him 27 on the season but just three since July 12. Ibanez is hitting just .234 (29 of 124) since the All-Star break but is now 6-for-12 in the month of September. The 41-year-old Ibanez is three home runs shy of becoming the oldest player in major league history to hit 30 in a season.
--2B Nick Franklin continues to hit near the bottom of the Mariners order, and he didn't fare much better while working out of the No. 9 hole Friday. Once Seattle's No. 2 hitter, Franklin has really struggled since the All-Star break (.167) and went 0-for-3 on Friday. His first two at-bats came against Tampa Bay RHP Alex Cobb, against whom Franklin is now 0-for-5 with three strikeouts this season.
--3B Kyle Seager extended his franchise-best streak of consecutive starts by a third baseman to 94 on Friday, when he was in the lineup against Tampa Bay. It's the second-longest current streak by a third baseman, trailing only the 190 straight games started by Baltimore's Manny Machado. Seager drove in runs on each of his first two at-bats, giving him 66 RBIs on the season. His third-inning RBI single also extended Seager's current hitting streak to eight games.
--RHP Hisashi Iwakuma is usually pretty efficient but went through a tough stretch early in Friday's game against Tampa Bay. He needed 14 pitches just to strike out Wil Myers in the second inning, then endured a 27-pitch third inning as his game total rose above 60. Eventually, Iwakuma had to come out of the game before finishing off the sixth, having thrown 97 pitches. He was charged with eight hits and three runs over 5 2/3 innings before leaving with a 4-3 lead.
--LHP Oliver Perez turned in four consecutive solid appearances after his five-hit, six-run performance in an Aug. 16 loss, but Friday's outing won't be on that list. He came on to begin the eighth inning but ended up facing only one batter, having issued a walk to left-handed hitter James Loney on five pitches before RHP Carter Capps relieved him. The 32-year-old Perez has really worn down over the course of the season after being one of the game's top left-handed specialists for most of the first three months.
--RHP Carter Capps was laboring through his eighth-inning stint Friday, so much so that he drew visits from pitching coach Carl Willis, manager Eric Wedge and trainer Rick Griffin within a matter of minutes. Capps gave up a two-out, RBI double to PH Luke Scott to tie the score 4-4, then issued a walk to Desmond Jennings to bring Willis to the mound. After three consecutive balls to the next batter, Ben Zobrist, Capps was visited again -- this time by Wedge and Griffin. With no apparent injury, Capps stayed in the game, only to walk Zobrist before inducing an inning-ending groundout.
--LHP James Paxton is scheduled to make his major league debut Saturday, when the Mariners host Tampa Bay. The 24-year-old Paxton was Seattle's fourth-rated prospect by Baseball America heading into the season, although he struggled at times during 26 starts at Triple-A Tacoma (8-11, 4.45 ERA). Paxton is the second of Seattle's three top pitching prospects to be called up recently. He'll join RHP Taijuan Walker in the rotation while LHP Danny Hultzen, another top prospect, continues to come back from injury problems at Triple-A Tacoma.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I was just praying it would get down, and luckily it hit some grass down there." -- 1B Justin Smoak, after driving in a pair of unearned runs with a two-out double in Friday's 6-4 win over the Rays.
MLB Team Report - Seattle Mariners - ROSTER REPORT
--RHP Stephen Pryor (torn right lat muscle) went on the 15-day disabled list April 15, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on May 17. He began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Tacoma on July 19, but he was shut down for the remainder of the season in August.
RHP Felix Hernandez
RHP Hisashi Iwakuma
LHP Joe Saunders
RHP Taijuan Walker
RHP Erasmo Ramirez
LHP James Paxton
RHP Danny Farquhar (closer)
RHP Tom Wilhelmsen
RHP Yoervis Medina
LHP Charlie Furbush
LHP Oliver Perez
LHP Lucas Luetge
RHP Brandon Maurer
RHP Chance Ruffin
RHP Hector Noesi
1B Justin Smoak
2B Nick Franklin
SS Brad Miller
3B Kyle Seager
DH Kendrys Morales
INF Brendan Ryan
INF Carlos Triunfel
LF Franklin Gutierrez
CF Michael Saunders
RF Abraham Almonte
OF Raul Ibanez
OF Endy Chavez
OF/INF Dustin Ackley