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April 21, 2014 at 4:58 PM

Mariners rookie James Paxton out until at least late May; Taijuan Walker ‘feeling much better’

Left-hander James Paxton, right, is expected to be out until at least late May. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)

Left-hander James Paxton, right, is expected to be out until at least late May. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)

Mariners rookie left-hander James Paxton isn’t expected to return to the rotation until late May — at the earliest.

Paxton (2-0, 2.25 ERA) was brilliant in his first two starts of the season, but a strained left lat muscle landed him on the DL, retroactive to April 9. At that point, he was scheduled to miss six to eight weeks, manager Lloyd McClendon said Monday.

“He’s coming along just fine,” McClendon said. “His workouts are coming along fine and hopefully he’ll continue to progress and be on schedule with that six to eight weeks program.”

In a follow-up question, McClendon was asked if that meant Paxton would be back in the rotation at the end of that six-to-eight-week timeline.

“Well, we’ll see — (in) six to eight weeks he should be healthy and read to pitch again,” McClendon said. “Whether or not he’s in the rotation, I don’t know.”

One of the other Mariners prized young pitchers, right-hander Taijuan Walker, is scheduled to meet with a doctor on Wednesday. If all goes well, he could resume some light throwing later in the week.

“I’m just resting and rehabbing right now. … I’m feeling much better, though, the last couple days. Much better,” Walker said.

Walker was scratched from his scheduled start for Tacoma last Tuesday after he woke up that morning with a sore arm. It was the same soreness he said he felt during spring training. He was diagnosed then with shoulder bursitis.

“Hopefully by the end of this week I’ll start throwing a little bit, starting picking it up from there,” he said. “The big test is just throwing.”

Walker was sharp in his first two minor-league starts of the season, striking out 17 in 9-1/3 innings.

“I was throwing really good and I came off a pretty good start and I was throwing good and all my pitches were feeling great, and then I just woke up and it just wasn’t feeling right,” he said. “I didn’t feel normal, and I didn’t want to go out and push anything. I probably could’ve pitched, but it probably wouldn’t have been the smart thing to do.”

Walker was asked if he thought his offseason weight-lifting program  might have contributed to his shoulder soreness.

“You know, that could have been it,” he said. “I was doing kind of different, some overhead shoulder workouts. That probably could’ve started it up. But who knows what it was? It kind of just came out of nowhere.”

Help could be on the way sooner for the Mariners rotation, with Hisashi Iwakuma is scheduled for a rehab start with Tacoma on Tuesday, though there is rain in the forecast.

The Mariners return home for tonight’s game against Houston on a six-game losing streak. McClendon was asked what his message was to his team after getting swept in Miami.

“The sky is falling, the Mariners are four games under and everything’s going to hell,” McClendon deadpanned, drawing a laugh from the assembled media.

“Like I told my guys: ‘Relax.’ I mean, we’re no different than any other team in baseball. We’re going to have our funks, and right now we got our funks and we’re four games under. But last time I checked, it’s a 162-game schedule and this team will be fine. We’ve got to get our pitching straightened out. Obviously, with our starting pitchers, we’ve been dealt a tough hand with that, and we just got to play it out. Once we get beyond that, I think this team will be just fine.”

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