Walker weighing whether to undergo foot surgery

Walker weighing whether to undergo foot surgery

SEATTLE -- For Taijuan Walker, the just-completed season was a tale of the good, the bad and the painful. Which is why the 24-year-old right-hander will be consulting with Mariners doctor Ed Khalfayan on Tuesday to determine whether to have surgery on his right foot.

This year's roller-coaster ride wasn't all about Walker's foot. He reworked his throwing mechanics late in the season and saw some dramatic improvement. But he also dealt with a nagging case of tendinitis in his right arch that led Dr. Robert Anderson, a specialist in North Carolina, to suggest it might help to shave down a bone that is slightly too long in his foot and could be causing some of that issue.

The Mariners would certainly like to get Walker right because when he was on this year, he looked like a potential No. 1 or 2 starter. In his first four games in April, Walker went 2-0 with a 1.44 ERA. And in his last five starts after redoing his mechanics with pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr., he was 4-1 with a 2.93 ERA.

Combine that start and finish, and Walker was 6-1 with a 2.26 ERA and 55 strikeouts with 16 walks in 55 2/3 innings over nine outings.

But the 16 starts in the middle of his season? Not so good, as Walker was 2-10 with a 5.61 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 21 walks in 78 2/3 innings.

"Taijuan was all over the board," manager Scott Servais acknowledged. "I think he's learned a lot, but he's a guy that certainly needs to work on things. We need the good Taijuan for consistent stretches, longer stretches next year."

He'll get no argument from Walker, who had a similar assessment of his year.

"It was up and down," Walker said. "At the start of the season, I thought for sure, 'Hey, this is it. This is going to be a really good year.' I don't want to use it as an excuse, but right after I got hurt, things kind of went downhill from there. Then it was up and down until this last month, which was really good and something to go into the offseason with."

The challenge now will be deciding whether it's better to have surgery on the foot and spend much of his offseason in recovery, or count on the foot healing on its own and using the winter months to condition and continue refining his mechanics.

He had an MRI on the foot on Monday and will review the findings with Khalfayan before making any decision on surgery.

"If I can avoid it, I will," he said. "But at the same time, I don't want to have the same issue next year. It really affected me a lot, so I'd rather get it taken care of. When I talked to Dr. Anderson, he said it would be anywhere from a three- to four-month recovery to be ready to pitch, so it would have to be within the next couple weeks."

Complicating matters is that Walker said the foot improved in his last few outings and he didn't feel any pain in his final start, when he allowed just two hits and one run in six innings in a 5-1 win over the A's.

Either way, Walker said he's going to stay in Seattle this offseason and work out with fellow starter James Paxton and will continue fine-tuning the new delivery he's incorporated in conjunction with Stottlemyre.

"Once I figure out what's going on with my foot, we'll put a plan together and really hammer it and get it so we don't have to worry about working on new stuff next year. Even between all these last few starts, we were still tweaking and figuring things out. So having a whole offseason to work on it is going to really help."

More medical news

Two Mariners relievers are also pondering offseason surgeries. Steve Cishek has been pitching the last six weeks with a slight tear in his right hip labrum and could undergo a procedure to repair that.

Right-hander Tony Zych, who was shut down for the final month after trying to return from a shoulder issue, could also be facing surgery. General manager Jerry Dipoto said the recovery time for both of those potential surgeries would be only a few months.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.