Outfielder Austin Wilson, the Mariners’ second-round pick out of Stanford, signed his contract today and took batting practice at Safeco Field. Wilson is joining Everett of the Northwest League and hopes to debut on Monday.
At 6-foot-5, 245 pounds, Wilson has great physical tools; in fact, when the Mariners took him for his physical exam today, he was mistaken for a Seahawks tight end. He peppered a few balls into Edgar’s Cantina but didn’t quite reach his goal of an upper-deck shot.
“Too many line drives,” he said. “Hopefully one day I can get it up there.”
Wilson is an interesting pick, because many analysts rated him as a first-round talent. Baseball America had him as their No. 29 overall prospect, but an elbow injury wiped out half of his junior year at Stanford and kept teams from picking him higher. He wound up hitting just five homers in 118 at-bats. Wilson characterized the injury as a small crack in the tip of his throwing elbow, but says he’s now 100 percent.
“It’s too bad my junior season didn’t go the way I wanted,” he said. “You kind of play all your college career to have a really, really great junior season. It didn’t go the way I wanted, but I feel I’m in a great spot now with the Mariners.”
At Stanford, Wilson lockered next to pitcher Mark Appel, the No. 1 overall pick by Houston. He said he’s eager to one day play against Appel in the majors.
“In Cape Cod, I had a great summer, and I was trying to build off that in terms of momentum,” he said. “This junior season obviously didn’t go the way I’d planned. I’m looking to go out in pro ball and show people why this is a great pick for Seattle.”
Lachian Fontaine, a 13th-round high school third baseman out of Vancouver, B.C., also signed and took BP today with an impressive array of balls out of the ballpark.
Meanwhile, Jack Zduriencik discussed Taijuan Walker’s promotion to Triple-A Tacoma.
“The plan was to get him to AAA at some point this year,” he said. “He’s pitched very well, and I think everyone’s excited about his progression. He had a big night last night. The timing is right.
” I don’t like to put expecations on players. It’s a jump to another level. But he’s handled all of this very well. People walk away on most of his starts excited about what he shows. The fact he’s going to be in Triple-A right down the road is good for him. I think it’s going to be good for where he’s at mentally. If I was in Tacoma, I’d be pretty excited about watching that pitching staff.”
Danny Hultzen, out since late April with a strained rotator cuff, makes an important step in his recovery tomorrow. He’s scheduled to pitch five innings in a game in the Arizona Rookie League.
“He’s feeling really good physically,” Zduriencik said. “He said he’s rarin’ to go.”
Zduriencik said the next step for Hultzen will be determined based on his showing tomorrow.
Reliever Stephen Pryor, recovering from a lat tear that has kept him out of action since April 15, says he feels “100 percent back to normal.” Now it’s a matter of building back up his arm strength. He’s been throwing and hopes to get on a mound by the middle of next week.
“It was a slow process healing, but now that the healing’s taken place, everything is getting on track,” he said. “I’m just really getting my arm back in shape after taking so much time off. ”
Pryor, who is on the 60-day DL, said he still has hopes of getting back before the All-Star break, “but if I make it back for the second half, and I can stay healthy for the whole second half, I’d be happy with that too.”
Manager Eric Wedge said it’s still too soon to come up with a timetable for Pryor’s return.
“He still has to get up on mound to throw and other steps he needs to go through. We’re hoping through the course of this homestand he can make some of that happen.”