SEATTLE (AP) In the midst of the wild card race in the American League, the Seattle Mariners determined they don't have the time to wait for Taijuan Walker to rediscover the potential he showed earlier in the season.
The Mariners optioned the struggling Walker to Triple-A Tacoma on Monday, a surprising move that the club hopes will jump start his sluggish performances on the mound. Walker was the corresponding move made when Seattle activated recently acquired reliever Arquimedes Caminero.
''Where we're at right now as a team and as an organization, I mean his last 13 starts he's had like three quality starts,'' Seattle manager Scott Servais said. ''It may be different if we were 10 or 15 games below .500. We're not thanks to the guys in that clubhouse who continue to play good baseball and we're a few games over. It's about winning and who gives us the best chance to go out and compete and give us the best chance to win next time out.''
Walker made his first start in a month last Saturday but allowed six runs in four innings against the Angels. Walker missed most of July because of tendinitis in his right foot and made only one rehab start in the minors before rejoining the Mariners. Walker is 4-7 with a 4.10 ERA but after the opening month of the season has been on a progressive slide. Between May 1 and July 5, Walker made 12 starts and pitched at least six innings only three times.
Servais said the club is sending a message to Walker that with the Mariners in playoff contention his performances must get better. Servais is hoping Walker takes a similar attitude to pitcher James Paxton and catcher Mike Zunino, who both started the season in the minors and are now key contributors for the Mariners.
''We certainly think Taijuan Walker is a big part of our future, just like I said with Paxton and Zunino, but right now we need to take a step back and do what is best for him,'' Servais said. ''I'm pretty confident he will take on the challenge and he'll be back.''
Ariel Miranda will step into Walker's spot in the rotation and start on Friday when the Mariners begin a series in Oakland. Seattle may need to make another adjustment to its rotation after Paxton took a line drive off his left, pitching elbow late in his victory over the Angels on Sunday. X-rays were negative and Paxton was receiving treatment on Monday. He is expected to make his next turn in the rotation, but with a day off upcoming, the Mariners may shuffle the rotation order to give Paxton an extra day or two of rest.
''We've got some wiggle room there,'' Servais said.