It seems the dominoes have fallen just right for right-handed pitcher Taijuan Walker.
After another outing of less than 5 innings, Erasmo Ramirez was sent down to Triple-A Tacoma, seemingly leaving his spot in the 5-man rotation vacant. Immediately following the Ramirez demotion, the Mariners recalled Brandon Maurer to fill his spot on the roster, though Maurer was put out in the bullpen for Wednesday’s game against the Red Sox.
Ramirez, had the rotation continued in order, would have been pitching this coming Monday down in Houston. But with his spot now vacant, the speculation can run rampant as to whom may fill his spot.
On Tuesday of this week, Walker through a 4-hit shutout down in Tacoma on just 109 pitches.
So all in all it seems the perfect storm to bring Walker, and his profound potential, back into the Major Leagues. Last season as a September call-up, Walker was impressive in the Mariners rotation. Over the course of 3 starts Walker posted a 1-0 record with a 3.60 ERA, 12 strikeouts, and 4 walks. His WHIP was a tidy 1.00, and he allowed 0 home runs.
So is it really time to bring up Taijuan Walker?
His spring had a promising start, but a sore shoulder ended up sidelining him and persistent setbacks– and caution by the organization– have kept him off the Major League roster. He is not quite Major League caliber yet, but the Mariners should hope he can provide more from the 5 spot in the rotation while fine-tuning his game and hitting his stride before a stretch run in September. If the M’s want to play in October, guys like Walker and James Paxton will play a Major Role in the rotation and/or the bullpen.
But more than anything else, the Mariners desperately need another hitter. In all honesty, the pitching staff can’t get much better. Their team ERA is 4th in the Majors; their WHIP 4th, and their Batting Average Against (BAA) is also 4th.
This team struggles on the offensive side of the ball.
Somehow they have a positive run differential (at +51, second in baseball only to the Athletics with +129). But other than that the offensive numbers leave much to be desired: 15th in runs scored (325); 24th in Batting Average (.242); 28th in On Base Percentage (.300); and 18th in Slugging Percentage (.378). So it’s clear the problem is not the pitching.
Hopefully Walker can come up and pitch better than the Maurer/Ramirez/Blake Beavan combinations in the 5 spot. But for this team to really make that push, they’re going to need a professional hitter– preferably a righty with power– to sit behind Robinson Cano in the lineup.
Until then, it’s a lot of wishful thinking, and a lot of reliance on a bullpen and a rotation that cannot get much better.