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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

June 1, 2011 at 2:36 PM

Mariners’ minor-league report, June 1: Taijuan Walker edition

taijuan.jpg

(Taijuan Walker is introduced to the crowd at Safeco Field shortly after the draft last June. Seattle Times staff photo).

Here is today’s Mariners minor-league report.

The Rainiers banged out 15 hits in an 11-10 loss to Reno last night. Mike Carp had four of them. You can find my thoughts on Carp here.

What caught my eye today was another outstanding performance by Taijuan Walker, who is really starting to open up some eyes. It was nearly a year ago that the Mariners used their first pick of the 2010 draft (No. 43 overall) on Walker, who hadn’t even turned 18 yet. The selection raised some eyebrows, but Walker, known more in high school for his basketball playing than his baseball skills, is really coming on.

On Tuesday, pitching for Class A Clinton LumberKings in a 4-3 win, Walker worked 7 2/3 innings against Fort Wayne. He didn’t allow any runs on three hits, striking out six and walking one. In his last two starts, Walker has worked 12 2/3 scoreless ininings, allowing just five hits. Over his last four starts, he is 2-0 with a 1.14 ERA (three earned runs in 23 2/3 innings, limiting opponents to a .173 average in that span, with 27 strikeouts and six walks. Walker has held right-handed hitters to a .148 average (9-for-61) this year, compared to .340 (17-for-50) vs. lefties. Overall, Walker is 2-2 with a 3.00 ERA in six starts, but he really seems to be finding his groove.

Clinton is just 15-38, stymied by a weak offense (3.3 runs per game), but Mariners farm director Pedro Grifol is excited by their rotation.

“Every day we have someone throwing in the mid-90s, all age 19 to 22,” he said, referring to Walker, James Paxton, Forrest Snow, George Mieses and Brandon Mauer (recently moved up to High Desert). Walker has powerful stuff. They’re not winning games, but it’s not about winning games. You’re looking at five guys improving every day out.”

One other name Grifol threw out was 18-year-old right-hander Jose Campos, who was named the top right-handed pitcher last year in the Venezuelan Summer League. He has been kept in extended spring training because of tendinitis, but “he’s upwards of 95 to 100 (mph),” Grifol said. The plan is for Campos to eventually pitch in Clinton, too.

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