While the Seattle Mariners do indeed need at least one proven, reliable starting pitcher for the middle of their rotation, there’s no reason to panic over the injuries to Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker. At least not yet.
Iwakuma is expected to start throwing in a week or two as he recovers from a finger injury suffered while working out in January. Injury expert Will Carroll of Bleacher Report calls it “an annoying injury that puts him behind schedule,” but “because he’s got a track record, I think he’ll be fine once he heals up and scales up.”
That appears to be the consensus on that kind of an injury. Shoulder problems can be the absolute worst, however, up to and including career-ending scenarios.
Walker tossed 25 pitches in a bullpen session Thursday and feels fine after, but there’s no way to tell how that shoulder will respond to more work, such as the 40-pitch session scheduled next for over the weekend.
Carroll told me Thursday via e-mail, however, that while “shoulder soreness isn’t a good thing, “it doesn’t have to be a bad thing,” and that “the key is to be very proactive.” The Mariners are certainly doing that.
One reason for optimism, Carroll says, is that Walker is in good hands. “The M’s have a great medical staff.” There is, however, a good chance the cautious approach, while always a good idea, may have hit new heights with Walker to curb his workload for the year. “I think they’re using this opportunity to control his innings from the front rather than the back like we’ve seen with some other young pitchers,” Carroll added.
This means rather than shutting down a young arm in August, teams will filter the work at the start of the season. This makes tons of sense for Seattle, Carroll points out, because James Paxton, too, is likely on some sort of workload cap for 2014. Staggering the two arms with such limits is ideal.
Carroll’s thoughts on the Mariners’ medical staff are echoed by yours truly. Not only have the Mariners worked well with Felix Hernandez, particularly after he removed himself from a game seven years ago due to elbow pain, but they put together a terrific plan to help Iwakuma’s shoulder problems with a strength program and an on-field scheme that included work out of the bullpen for about half of 2012.
At this time, there are zero concerns that Walker’s shoulder soreness is a significant issue. While shoulder problems can be scary and a real, long-term issue, Walker isn’t at that stage, and may never reach that level. Often times, pitchers get through these kinds of phases and don’t have major problems.
While there are multiple reasons to panic about Seattle Mariners baseball, the long-term status of Iwakuma and Walker are not among them.
– Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan
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