Taijuan Walker, whose first name I still can’t properly spell without double-checking, has been perfect this spring in his attempt to lay claim to the 5th spot in the Mariners’ rotation. The 22-year-old has made five starts and struck out 19 over 18 scoreless innings, allowing just six hits and four walks. His competition this spring was Roenis Elias who has posted a 6.75 ERA over 14.2 IPs. Walker’s final start of the spring will come this Monday against the Angels and barring anything unforeseen he should break camp with the Mariners as a part of their rotation.
Walker was a 1st round pick of the Mariners in 2010 and debuted with Seattle in 2013 making three productive 5-inning starts between August 30th-September 9th. The right-hander was rated as a Top 10 MLB prospect with the potential to be a big part of the Mariners’ rotation in 2014, but shoulder soreness wiped out his spring training a year ago and delayed a return trip to the Pacific Northwest.
Walker first made it to the mound for the Mariners during 2014 for a three start stint that spanned June 30th through July 23rd. He was returned to the minors, but was recalled to make five appearances last September, which included three starts. The last of which was an 8 inning, 6 K, 1 ER effort on September 24th when the Mariners were making a late, but unsuccessful push for a playoff spot. His final line was a 2-3 mark with a 2.61 ERA over 38 innings. He had a 34/18 K/BB ratio.
Walker will join a rotation currently configured to include Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ, Not too shabby even if you aren’t very hip on Happ.
Meanwhile the back end of other American League rotations kind of looks like this as we enter the spring’s final week. A thumbnail sketch if you will as anything involving pitching is subject to change.
Los Angeles Angels
Andrew Heaney vs Nick Tropeano vs Drew Rucinski? Tropeano (3.48 ERA over 10.1 IP) could relieve/start as could Rucinski (1.50 ERA) who’s been a pleasant surprise in his 12 innings this spring. Andrew Heaney, acquired from the Marlins through the Dodgers this offseason is the prospect who should eventually hold this job. He’s not had a good spring by allowing 13 runs and 3 home runs over 14 innings pitched. If Heaney doesn’t lock into the rotation for April then he figures he to get sent down to Triple-A so he can continue to make starts until called upon by the big league Angels.
Asher Wojciechowski has allowed 2 runs in 16.2 IP this spring. Performance and his name make him deserving of the 5-hole, but the nod will probably go to 34-year-old veteran Roberto Hernandez who allowed a run on three hits over five innings Saturday vs the Marlins. Roberto Hernandez is versatile. He masqueraded as Fausto Carmona from 2006 through 2011.
Please make it be Barry Zito. He hasn’t been scored upon over his last 11 innings and has a 2.30 ERA over 15.2 IP this spring. Zito probably makes the A’s in some capacity. Gray and Kaz and pray for rain. Well that strategy won’t work so the Athletics will then most likely trot out Jesse Hahn and either Drew Pomeranz, Kendall Graveman or Jesse Chavez. Keep in mind the TJS recoveries from Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin are progressing. Those two could be factors around mid-season or later. It’s the A’s, they’ll figure something out and it will probably work just fine.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Marcus Stroman injury has opened the door for 22-year-old Aaron Sanchez and 21-year-old Daniel Norris to occupy the final two spots in the Blue Jays rotation. Norris (2.41 ERA over 18.2 IP) is one of those
, as in enjoying spring training life with his 1978 VW Microbus. He most recently fanned seven while holding the Orioles to one run over six innings in a victory this past Wednesday. Marco Estrada is competing with Norris for the 5th spot and got his ERA under 8 with a 3-inning outing by allowing only one run with three strikeouts on Saturday.
Danny Salazar was sent down to the minors this past week. Salazar has that “upside” which makes fantasy baseball owners draft him. 15 Ks in 11 innings this spring, but he’s allowed 10 runs. He will work on things in Triple-A before returning the Indians. This leaves Trevor Bauer, T.J, House and Zach McAllister to fill out those 3-5 spots behind super cool Cy Young Kluber and Carlos Carrasco.
Kevin Gausman vs Ubaldo Jimenez for the 5th spot. The 24-year-old Gausman could fall victim to Buck Showalter needing Gausman’s flexibility to start or relieve which means all of us could fall victim to watching Jimenez work in the areas around the strike zone which are usually called balls and not strikes.
Chicago White Sox
Chris Sale plans to return from his foot injury on April 12th. Don’t believe what a player says about his health. Newly acquired Jeff Samardzija and Jose Quintana assist Sale in the the Sox rotation, but then there’s a drop-off. The unexciting John Danks is proof left-handers are like cats, while the less than stellar Hector Noesi, as the 5th starter, suggests it’s just a matter of time before we get to enjoy Carlos Rodon. The 22-year-old Rodon struck out nine batters over four scoreless innings this past Wednesday against the Royals. Rodon has 19 Ks over 12.1 IP this spring.
Nick Martinez (0.84 ERA over 10.2 IP) vs Nick Tepesch (8.56 ERA over 13.2 IP).
Tampa Bay Rays
Do they have 5 healthy starters? Not really. Alex Cobb (forearm) and Drew Smyly (shoulder) will still be on the mend in early April so the Rays only two experienced starters with health are opening day starter Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi. Nate Karns and Matt Andriese appear to be the ones filling the 3rd and 4th spots early on this season. Karns gave up six runs over four innings to the Red Sox on Saturday. Andriese shut out the Twins for five innings with six strikeouts last Wednesday. Matt Moore’s pretty good, but he’s another TJS recovery story who won’t be an option for the Rays until late-May or June.
Boston Red Sox
Steven Wright figures to get the 5th starter honor if Joe Kelly begins the season on the DL. Wright allowed five unearned runs in 3.2 IP on Saturday against the Rays, but maintains a 1.32 ERA this spring over 13.2 IP. Kelly maintains minor biceps tightness after batters hit .436 against him in his 7.1 IP this spring.
Kansas City Royals
Edinson Volquez has been consistently bad in his four spring starts allowing a run an inning, but he’s in the 5-hole. Kris Medlen – yep TJS recovery – is another potential mid-season chip the Royals might be able to play.
Shane Greene has the ERA below 4 over 13.2 IP after striking out six in five innings on Saturday against the Cardinals. He and 2014 Reds’ standout Alfredo Simon currently possess the 4-5 spots behind David Price, Justin Verlander’s tricep and Anibal Sanchez.
It was supposed to be Mike Pelfrey (1.32 ERA over 13.2 IP) vs Tommy Milone (4.50 ERA over 14 IP). Milone wins this one. Pelfrey’s WHIP is 1.24 so that ERA doesn’t say much. The Twins have said he will work out of the pen. Saturday, Pelfrey told Twins beat writer Mike Berardino he’s “kind of disappointed, frustrated, a little upset” about the decision. All words Mets’ fans have used to describe Pelfrey’s 2006-2012 tenure in Queens.
New York Yankees
Adam Warren is the Yankees’ 5th starter even if CC has pitched like one in his two brief starts this spring. Warren was pretty good in relief last season. His 76/24 K/BB ratio came over 78.2 IP. Opponents hit .219 against him. The ERA was a shade under 3 as he picked up 3 wins and 3 saves. His contributions may have been overlooked as Betances and Robertson were all the rage. This spring Warren has a 2.70 ERA over 16.2 IP with 11 strikeouts and only one free pass.
Later this week, a round up of the National League 5th starters.