SEATTLE -- Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon doesn't know what to expect from Taijuan Walker, the club's top pitching prospect, when the 21-year-old makes his season debut Monday against the Astros at Minute Maid Park.
After getting called up for his Major League debut late in 2013, Walker went 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA in three starts, but he missed most of 2014 Spring Training because of inflammation in his right throwing shoulder. His return was delayed further when he experienced right-shoulder stiffness prior to a rehab start with Triple-A Tacoma in mid-April.
"I've read and heard all the accolades. I saw a little bit of film, but I haven't seen him in competition," McClendon said. "Hopefully he goes out and gives us five or six good innings. We'll take it from there."
The Mariners had yet to recall Walker from Tacoma, and when they do, they'll have to clear space on their 25-man roster. Right-handed reliever Brandon Maurer was brought up June 25 when the Mariners optioned starter Erasmo Ramirez to Tacoma. Earlier this week, Maurer seemed the obvious choice to join Ramirez in Triple-A when Walker joins the club.
But in two stints out of the bullpen, Maurer has struck out six and allowed just one hit in three shutout innings. His fastball, which hovered in the mid-90s earlier this season during his unsuccessful tenure in the starting rotation (1-4, 7.52 ERA), approached 100 mph.
"I think he's found his niche a little bit. He's very comfortable doing that," McClendon said of Maurer. "He doesn't have to process a lot of things other than just throw the ball. Whatever the catcher puts down just throw the ball. It's worked. We'll see."
McClendon didn't rule out the possibility of sending down a position player. That would give the Mariners an unbalanced roster of 12 position players and 13 pitchers.
"A lot of teams do that," McClendon said. "You call that unbalanced. I call that balanced."
Romero optioned to Triple-A
SEATTLE -- After the Mariners beat the Indians, 3-0, on Sunday, they optioned rookie outfielder Stefen Romero to Triple-A Tacoma.
The move was made to clear room on the 25-man roster so the club can recall hard-throwing, right-hander Taijaun Walker, the organization's top pitching prospect. Walker has yet to be promoted from the Rainiers, but he'll make his 2014 Major League debut Monday night when the Mariners begin a three-game series against the Astros at Minute Maid Park.
Getting a start Sunday against Cleveland left-hander T.J. House, Romero, 25, went 0-for-3, which dropped his batting average to .196. The Oregon State product had just three home runs and 11 RBIs in his first 51 games with Seattle after using a strong Spring Training to make the team.
Seager putting up numbers worthy of consideration
SEATTLE -- Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager has been on a tear over his last 15 games, hitting .393 with seven doubles, three home runs and 16 RBIs. He's also on pace to drive in 100 runs for the first time in his career. Entering Sunday, he has a .274/.345/.490 slash line, 12 home runs and 55 RBIs.
Seager hasn't cracked the Top 5 in voting for third baseman for the 2014 All-Star Game, but his recent surge puts him in position to at least earn consideration for a reserve role when MLB players cast their votes this weekend. Red Sox manager John Farrell will complete the roster before the official announcement for All-Star teams on July 6.
Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com -- online or on a mobile device -- using the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian until Thursday, July 3, at 8:59 p.m. PT. The 2014 All-Star Game will be played at Target Field on Tuesday, July 15 on FOX.
In the meantime, McClendon admitted he'd like to put Seager in the No. 2 spot in the Mariners lineup.
But Seager was the cleanup man for Sunday's series finale against the Indians.
"We're not even close to being there," Mclendon said of putting Seager No. 2. "For me, I can't speak for other managers -- I like a guy in the No. 2 hole that has some pop in his bat, is capable of pulling the ball, hitting the hole, won't clog up the bases and he can hit some home runs. [Seager] fits that mold but we don't have other guys to put in other spots. Right now, he won't hit there."
Adam Lewis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.