9/2/2014 6:34 P.M. ET
Walker eager to step up for Mariners
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
OAKLAND -- This hasn't been the season Taijuan Walker envisioned when he reported to Spring Training seven months ago in Arizona. But after struggling with shoulder issues the first two months of the season and then spending most of the rest of his time at Triple-A Tacoma, the Mariners' top prospect figures there's still time to make something of 2014.
As one of the team's September callups, Walker wants to take advantage of the final month, and he started off on the right foot with six innings of one-run relief in Monday's 6-1 loss to the A's.
"They expect a lot of me, so I know I really need to step up and just go out there and dominate and pitch and go after them," said the 22-year-old right-hander.
Manager Lloyd McClendon delivered a pretty succinct message to the youngster upon his arrival in Oakland, telling him he'd pitch out of the bullpen initially and if he wanted to progress to a bigger role, then start showing he deserves that opportunity when he gets his chances.
Walker pitched well enough Monday that McClendon is at least pondering the possibility of moving him into the rotation in Chris Young's spot Saturday in Texas if he feels Young isn't fully healthy after the veteran lasted just two-thirds of an inning Monday in his second straight abbreviated outing.
"I saw his potential yesterday," McClendon said prior to Tuesday's game with the A's. "Obviously he pitched extremely well. It showed what he's capable of doing. We need to get him to the point where he's consistent every time out with that."
Is there time to make up for a mostly lost season for the youngster?
"Definitely," said Walker. "Whenever they give me the ball, I just have to go out there and pretty much do what I did [Monday]. Just keep going out there and pitching good."
Walker said he felt better in his last five starts in Tacoma since simplifying his approach. And his goal now is pretty simple as well. Get the ball, get outs and show what he can do. And if he does enough of that, he might well wind up with a bigger role in the closing weeks as the Mariners piece together their pitching for a run at the postseason.
Mariners mulling struggling Young's next start
OAKLAND -- After pushing Chris Young's last start back an extra three days and then seeing him get knocked out after two-thirds of an inning Monday, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said Tuesday he's facing a decision now whether to keep the veteran right-hander in the rotation.
Young has been a big part of the Mariners' success this season with a 12-7 record and 3.46 ERA in 27 games (26 starts), but he has had two rough outings in a row and McClendon wants to make sure he's healthy as he's passed 150 innings for the first time since 2007 after a series of injury-plagued seasons.
"He threw seven starts in the Minor Leagues last year. He's in uncharted territory," McClendon said. "I have to watch him and evaluate and make a decision."
The Mariners have an option already lined up as rookie right-hander Taijuan Walker threw 89 pitches in six innings of one-run relief Monday and could simply step in Saturday in Texas in Young's next scheduled start.
McClendon said he talked to Young after the 35-year-old gave up five runs on four hits and two walks while getting only two outs in Monday's 6-1 loss and he'll observe the big right-hander's long-toss and bullpen sessions and figure out his course of action.
"He assured me he felt healthy and I assured him I would do what is best for this club," McClendon said. "I'm going to evaluate in the next day or two and we'll make a decision. If I deem him 100 percent healthy, yes, he'll start."
Young said after Monday's start that he feels fine physically.
"I feel good. I wouldn't take the ball if I didn't," he said. "Every pitcher goes through a period during the season where they don't throw the ball as well, and mine is right now. I'm going to get through it, I'm going to keep working and I'm going to finish strong."
But Young walked five batters in his prior start in Boston when he gave up seven hits and three runs while needing 93 pitches to get through 3 2/3 innings. He issued two more walks and struggled with his location again before McClendon pulled him in the first inning after 36 pitches Monday.
"He's not a big velocity guy anyway," McClendon said. "What concerns me is command with him because he's not a power guy. When he starts to lose command, yeah, I'm a little concerned about it."
Mariners trying to get Saunders back
OAKLAND -- Mariners right fielder Michael Saunders has reported to the club's training facility in Peoria, Ariz., to begin working out as he returns from a viral infection that has sidelined him nearly two weeks.
With the Minor League regular seasons having ended Monday, Saunders will work out and play in some simulated game action as he attempts to work himself back into playing condition after losing about 12 pounds with the illness.
"He's down there taking [batting practice], fly balls, working out, facing some living pitching," manager Lloyd McClendon said Tuesday. "We're trying to get him ready. I don't know if it's going to happen or not, but we're trying."
Saunders, 27, was on a Minor League rehab stint with Triple-A Tacoma recovering from a strained oblique in his left side when he came down with the illness. He hit .276 with six home runs and 28 RBIs in 65 games for the Mariners before going on the 15-day disabled list with an oblique strain July 11.
If he can get healthy, Saunders could be added to the Mariners' roster at any point in September now that rosters can be expanded, and he remains eligible for postseason play since he was on the 40-man roster on the DL as of Aug. 31.
Paxton, Ramirez rejoin Mariners
OAKLAND -- Pitchers James Paxton and Erasmo Ramirez were added to the Mariners' roster on Tuesday as the club finalized its September callups.
Paxton will start Tuesday night's game against the A's at O.co Coliseum, while Ramirez joins a well-stocked bullpen that now features 12 arms for the final month of games.
Both players had to wait until Tuesday to be added to the Major League roster, because they were optioned to Triple-A Tacoma last week. Optioned players aren't eligible to return for at least 10 days, unless the Minor League club ends its season prior to that span. Tacoma played its final game on Monday.
Paxton was optioned to Tacoma after throwing 6 2/3 scoreless innings against the Rangers last Tuesday in a move designed strictly to open a temporary 25-man roster spot. Paxton didn't pitch for Tacoma, and he returns on schedule for Tuesday's start.
The 25-year-old southpaw is 4-1 with a 1.83 ERA in seven starts for Seattle, including a 2-1 record and 1.65 ERA in five August starts since missing four months with shoulder problems.
Ramirez, 24, returns for his seventh stint with the Mariners this season. He's 1-6 with a 5.21 ERA in 14 starts with Seattle and 6-5 with a 3.65 ERA in 15 games (14 starts) for Tacoma. Ramirez was optioned to Tacoma after giving up 10 runs on nine hits in three-plus innings in a 12-4 loss to the Rangers on Wednesday.
Seven other players were promoted from Tacoma prior to Monday's game: outfielders Corey Hart and Stefen Romero, first baseman Justin Smoak, pitchers Taijuan Walker, Lucas Luetge and Carson Smith and catcher Humberto Quintero.
• Outfielder James Jones has the second-most stolen bases of any Mariners rookie in franchise history with 22. Ichiro Suzuki holds the rookie record of 56 in 2001.
• Fernando Rodney needs one more save to become the third Seattle closer with 40 in a season, joining Kazuhiro Sasaki (45 in 2001) and J.J. Putz (40 in 2007).
• Third baseman D.J. Peterson, the Mariners' 2013 first-round Draft pick, finished his first full Minor League season hitting .297 with 31 home runs and 111 RBIs while splitting the year between Class A Advanced High Desert and Double-A Jackson.
Peterson finished with the second-most RBIs of any Minor Leaguer in the country behind the 131 of Reds prospect Marquez Smith. Two other Mariners prospects were sixth and seventh on that list with Jordy Lara at 104 and Patrick Kivlehan with 103, while Gabby Guerrero was tied for 15th with 96 and Jabari Henry 19th with 95.