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May 29, 2014 at 4:48 PM

Walker still a couple rehab starts away from joining Mariners

Prized pitching prospect Taijuan Walker is still a couple of rehab starts away from joining the Mariners.

Walker, who hasn’t pitched in the majors this season because of shoulder injuries, started on Wednesday for Class AAA Tacoma. He produced uneven results: three innings, four earned runs, five hits and 61 pitches.

It was his first start since April because of stiffness in his shoulder, and manager Lloyd McClendon said the 21-year-old Walker would likely make at least one or two more starts in the minors before joining the Mariners.

“He’s rusty,” McClendon said. “Stuff is good, but he’s rusty. It’s going to take time. Walk didn’t have much of a spring training. None, really…It’s going to take some time. We’re going to get the rust off him. I think the worst thing we can do is probably rush this young man back.”

Walker missed most of spring training because of shoulder bursitis. He made two rehab starts in April, then was shut down again in mid-April after experiencing stiffness in his shoulder.

In his first start in more than a month, Walker said he struggled locating his fastball in the third inning, when he gave up all four runs. He admitted to being rusty but said his shoulder felt like it should on Thursday morning.

“It’s sore, obviously,” Walker said. “But it’s just the normal soreness in the right spots. Nothing bad.”

McClendon vs. Detroit: McClendon will see a lot of familiar faces starting Friday, when the Mariners play the Detroit Tigers. McClendon spent the last eight seasons in Detroit, the final seven as the team’s hitting coach.

“It will be fun to see a lot of friends and a lot of people I consider family,” McClendon said. “That’s always going to be special. I’m excited about that, but I’ll be trying to kick their ass.”

Command the word of the day for Maurer: McClendon laid out the key to success for starting pitcher Brandon Maurer, who has struggled heavily at times during his young career. Maurer hasn’t gone more than 4 1/3 innings in either of his last two starts, and his ERA this season is 6.99.

Said McClendon, “It’s never been a matter of whether or not his stuff was quality. It’s just been a matter of command of the strike zone. We just need him to go out and command the strike zone today, whether he’s throwing a fastball, curveball, slider or change.”

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