Walker encouraged after sharp rehab start

TACOMA, Wash. -- The Mariners didn't add any starting pitching at the non-waiver Trade Deadline on Monday. Maybe it's because one of the arms they'd like to count on the most in those important late-season games was a mere half-hour south, working his way back to the big club.

Taijuan Walker, the Mariners' prized 6-foot-4, 235-pound right-hander, has been on the 15-day disabled list for more than three weeks with tendinitis in the arch of his right foot. He pitched for Triple-A Tacoma at Cheney Stadium in what Seattle hopes is his final Minor League rehab appearance before rejoining the Major League rotation on Saturday at home against the Angels.

Walker, pitching for the Rainiers against the Colorado Rockies' Triple-A affiliate, the Albuquerque Isotopes, continued to progress, going 4 1/3 innings and giving up two runs on three hits while striking out one and walking two. He gave up one home run and threw 69 pitches, 41 of which were strikes.

But none of those numbers mattered. The only thing of concern to Walker was the foot, which he said held up as well as he could have imagined in another pain-free exercise.

"I felt good," Walker said. "My legs felt good, my arm felt really good, I didn't get tired. … I threw a lot of pitches. I just kind of got behind on a few hitters, but it was good work.

"I feel like anyone that was watching could really tell the difference. I'm getting after it on every pitch. … My stuff was pretty sharp. Just kind of a little rusty getting back into it, facing hitters."

Walker, 23, has said he felt pain in the arch every time he pitched since the middle of June. He has been effective overall this year, with a 3.66 ERA and 80 strikeouts against 18 walks in 86 innings over 16 starts, but he was 0-5 in May and is 4-7 for the season. If the Mariners are to make a push for the postseason, one would think a healthy, consistent Walker is a necessity.

"That is a key piece for us," Mariners manager Scott Servais said Monday before the Mariners' game against the Red Sox at Safeco Field. "Early in the year when he was throwing well, you could see he could really shut the other team down for six to seven innings. But consistent performance from him is really what we're looking for."

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.