The Mariners pitching situation has been questioned for some time. The top of the rotation of Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma have been considered the staples in the rotation. The bullpen was another question mark though. The signing of Fernando Rodney seemed to answer the question of who would be the one to close out games for the Mariners but the bullpen is still shaky after him. And more recently, even more questions have risen with Taijuan Walker and Iwakuma having injuries that have prevented them from participating in spring training so far.
While spring training stats are completely irrelevant, having the spring to work to get ready for the season is crucial. While this may seem like a red flag, this shouldn’t be an issue for the Mariners. Yes, Iwakuma will take some time to get back into the rhythm of things but that shouldn’t be too much of a challenge for a veteran like himself. Iwakuma will be able to find his form quite quickly once his finger issue is resolved. Also, given that this is simply spring training Walker is not missing too much. No, he cannot work on his secondary pitches just yet, but there is still time and rookie growing pains should be expected regardless of injury.
Last season we saw some good things from Walker despite the small sample size. There are plenty of things he can work on but there is no doubt the Mariners can use him immediately. He had many Mariner fans holding their breath when a shoulder injury prevented him from pitching right away. Luckily for himself and fans, he threw a 25-pitch bullpen session and was said to, “feel normal again.”
There is still a ways to go, but it’s good to know that Walker is on the right path. He has another bullpen session planned for Sunday and that will be even more telling. Given the Mariners understand what they have in Walker it’s reasonable that they are being cautious.
Even with the hope that Iwakuma returns early in the season, the Mariners are depending on Walker to step up. His Sunday bullpen session will be vital to knowing how the rotation will turn out. Every Mariner fan should want to see him, and how well his cutter has come along, come the season but if there is any discomfort, we all need to be ready for a longer rest for Walker. Given how well he felt on Thursday, I am optimistic about the upcoming bullpen session.
The bottom line here is that M’s fans do not have much to worry about with the rotation other than what has already worried them. Iwakuma is a great pitcher and is taking the right steps toward pitching again. Even after he comes back it won’t take long before he is back in form. Also, Walker’s issue is being surveyed carefully. The Mariners will be sure that their prized prospect is in the clear before letting him loose again.