7/22/2014 8:35 P.M. ET
Top prospect Walker returning to Mariners
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- Taijuan Walker, one of the premier pitching prospects in baseball, will be recalled by the Mariners on Wednesday and start the afternoon's 12:40 PT series finale against the Mets at Safeco Field.
The 21-year-old right-hander made two starts for Seattle earlier this month, going 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA, before being sent back to Triple-A Tacoma to stay sharp over the All-Star break. Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon expressed some unhappiness with Walker's initial outing in Tacoma, but the hard-throwing California native will be given another opportunity now to show if he's ready for the big leagues.
Walker, No. 5 on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list, said he understood McClendon's concern after he needed 83 pitches to get through a five-inning outing.
"Obviously I need to be better," Walker said. "I put a lot of pressure on myself to be better, too. I wasn't pleased with my start. So definitely, stuff like that is just motivation because I know I need to be better and they expect me to be better. I just take that as motivation and will take it into my next start."
Walker went 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in his two recent starts for the Rainiers, but had just two strikeouts with four walks in 10 innings. He said his fastball command, which was a problem in his last start for Seattle when he walked five in four innings against the White Sox, is something he's found some answers for in recent bullpen sessions.
"Watching video from last year and this year, it's just my lower half, there's no drive and no legs in it," he said. "When I did use my legs, I was flying open. I didn't have a consistent release point. I worked on that in my last bullpen and felt different. I felt like I was able to explode and finish everything out front instead of side to side."
McClendon pondered giving Wednesday's start to reliever Tom Wilhelmsen, who has been stretched out up to four innings as a long man and made a spot start just before the All-Star break. But he said his bullpen "has been taxed" in recent days and moving Wilhelmsen out of that role didn't make sense.
"Obviously it still intrigues me about Wilhelmsen, but we just can't do it right now," McClendon said. "The Anaheim series was just too grueling for us. We're going to back off a little bit."
McClendon has indicated Wilhelmsen might be looked at in a starting role next spring, but he won't push to make that transition any sooner.
"I don't know what's going to happen three weeks from now, but as we speak now, that's not in the plans, no," he said.
Walker said he just wants to get on a consistent schedule now after an up-and-down first four months due to injury and his recent demotion.
"I definitely just want to get on a routine and just roll with it," he said. "It kind of sucks being out for a couple weeks, getting back and then shut down again, back up and down. It'd be nice to pitch well and start getting on a roll."
The Mariners will need to make a roster move to open a spot for Walker and likely will send Erasmo Ramirez back to Tacoma after his Tuesday night start against the Mets.
Ackley is heating up at the plate
SEATTLE -- While Dustin Ackley was drawing raves for his outstanding catch that robbed the Mets' Travis d'Arnaud of a home run in Seattle's 5-2 win on Monday, the Mariners left fielder has been coming through more regularly at the plate as well in recent days.
Ackley's 3-for-4 game in the series opener was his third three-hit game this month after totaling just two three-hit games in the season's first three months.
The 2009 first-round Draft pick has hit .360 (18-for-50) in July to raise his average from .214 to .239 going into Tuesday's game. Ackley had a similar midseason surge last year when he batted .390 in August and hiked his average from .200 to .253 over the final 66 games of the season.
"The last five, six, seven games, I've felt pretty good," Ackley said. "And the results have been there, too, so that always helps build the confidence for sure.
"I'm just staying on balls better. Lately I've been working up the middle and pitches away I've been hitting to left field. I think that's really important. Especially when you're getting pitched that way, that's really the key."
Manager Lloyd McClendon said he's not certain if there's a pattern to Ackley's back-to-back slow starts.
"I'm trying to learn the player," said the first-year skipper. "I don't know if he's just a notoriously slow starter and once he gets hot, he gets hot. I don't know. But I do know he's playing better, he's swinging well, he's aggressive. We'll see."
Mariners tab Seager for Heart and Hustle Award
SEATTLE -- All-Star third baseman Kyle Seager was selected Tuesday as the Mariners' nominee for the 2014 Heart and Hustle Award from the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association.
Seager is thus one of 30 finalists for the award, which was created in 2005 and voted on annually by current and former Major League players. The honor is presented to an active player who demonstrates a passion for the game and best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of Major League Baseball.
Seager, 26, has been one of the Mariners' most consistent and productive players since his midseason arrival in 2011. The North Carolina native led the club in games played in '12 and '13 and is again tops in that category. He's was in the lineup Tuesday for the 97th time in the Mariners' first 100 games.
Seager was selected as the Mariners Most Valuable Player by the Seattle chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America last year and is having his best season yet this season as he was selected to his first All-Star Game while leading the team in home runs and RBIs.
Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox was the national Heart & Hustle Award winner last year, when Raul Ibanez was the Mariners' nominee. This is Seager's first time being selected for the honor.
• McClendon said rookie southpaw Roenis Elias "checked out fine" when trainers looked at his left forearm Tuesday after the 25-year-old was removed from Monday's start after 90 pitches due to cramping.
• Michael Saunders could be slightly ahead of schedule in his recovery from a strained oblique muscle, McClendon said, but the right fielder still figures to be looking at mid-August or later before he's ready to return.
"He's feeling better," McClendon said. "He's getting better. He may be a little ahead of schedule, but that's going to be a while."
• First-round Draft pick Alex Jackson was diagnosed Tuesday with a small fracture of the maxillary antrum (sinus area) after being hit in the face wiht a line drive in Monday's game for the Mariners' Arizona Rookie League team. Jackson has hit .289 in his first 20 games with 11 runs scored, six doubles, two triples, two home runs and 15 RBIs.