Taijuan Walker and a Reminder


Feb 13, 2014; Peoria, AZ, USA; Seattle Mariners pitcher Taijuan Walker throws during team workouts at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries are all the talk in Marinersland today, as the team has opened spring training with several of their most high-profile players falling victim to various degrees of aches and pains. There’s the whole Franklin Gutierrez thing, which we’ve talked about extensively here. There’s Hisashi Iwakuma‘s finger, which was also discussed and which really shouldn’t be much more than a setback. And then there’s Taijuan Walker‘s shoulder.

Make no mistake – this is not a big deal. Yet. This is not a big deal right now, but it’s not insane to think it could quickly become one. Right now, Gutierrez and Iwakuma’s injuries are much more severe. But there’s nothing quite as volatile as a young pitcher, and the shoulder is the last injury you want to hear about. Taijuan Walker does not have a shoulder injury, he has some soreness. He should be fine. But this is all too reminiscent of events that transpired about a year ago. This is all too close to home.

Danny Hultzen was taken at number two overall in the 2011 draft and was considered to be one of the very best left handed pitching prospects in the game. Today Danny Hultzen is no longer a top pitching prospect because of a shoulder injury that will sideline him for all of the 2014 season after also managing to wreck his 2013. Aside from their handedness, Walker and Hultzen have a lot in common: Seattle Mariners prospects, top pitching prospects, volatile youth. We don’t know how to predict injuries, but we do know that young pitchers get injured. A lot. Remember Michael Pineda? Of course you remember Michael Pineda. He’s still hurt. Dylan Bundy isn’t pitching right now, and neither is Matt Harvey. These things really happen, all the time, and no pitcher is immune.

Taijuan Walker, so far, has been a healthy baseball player. Even right now he’s a healthy baseball player, but an achy shoulder is the first concern. He will be watched very closely, in the case that this is more than nothing. But perhaps there’s no better reminder than an achy shoulder that depth is important and young pitchers should not be counted on for anything. Maybe Walker’s healthy and effective in 2014. The odds of both those things happening is well under 50%, and that’ important to remember. Walker’s the most dangerous kind of player to put your faith in. Let’s hope the Mariners remember that when asking themselves if they’re satisfied with the rotation options they’ve currently got in camp.

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