Baseball's back! Stop by periodically for headlines from around spring training.
Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon took top prospect Taijaun Walker away from prying eyes for his bullpen session Thursday, and both emerged pleased with how he performed. Walker, a 21-year-old right-hander who was hoping to begin the season in the major league rotation, had been experiencing shoulder soreness and was completely shut down for a week Feb. 28. Walker had been building up strength ever since, but he also had been building uncertainty.
Greg Johns at MLB.com reports that Walker is feeling relief and happiness after throwing in a tightly controlled session:
“Today was a great relief,” said the 21-year-old, who is the No. 6 ranked prospect in baseball by MLB.com. “I finally feel normal again. I can finally go out and just be normal and play catch and not worry about anything.
“I’m excited. It kind of feels like I just got here. It feels really good.”
Walker threw 25 fastballs only, without going full blast until the "last 10" or so, he said. Saying that he feared creating "a sideshow," McClendon had Walker pitch out of sight from the media in order to help the pitcher stay relaxed.
Walker said he didn't care about doing the session privately because "the media is always going to be there."
Walker won't be ready for opening day and figured to miss at least one turn in the rotation, but the club is hoping he'll be ready to go sometime in April.
BRETT TOMKO TURNS 41 SOON, but that hasn't stopped the Kansas City Royals from signing him to a minor league deal. Tomko has not pitched in the majors since 2011 when he posted a 4.58 ERA in 17 2/3 innings for the Texas Rangers, and he hasn't topped 100 innings since 2007. He posted a 4.98 ERA with 90 strikeouts in 124 2/3 innings for York of the independent Atlantic League in 2013.
Reporter John Walk of the York Dispatch talked to Tomko about his opportunity.
“A lot of people had a hard time getting over the fact I am 40-years-old. But if you saw me in person I do not look 40-years-old,” Tomko said.
Tomko added that he was throwing "92,93" mph in his bullpen session with an effective cutter and changeup. His curveball wasn't so hot, he said. The Royals have a bullpen opening after losing right-hander Luke Hochevar for the season to Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. Hey, who doesn't love a comeback story? Except for you, Manny Ramirez!
JOSH BECKETT HAS A SPRAINED THUMB, after rehabbing from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, and is frustrated in Los Angeles Dodgers camp, the Los Angeles Times reports:
Beckett said his thumb was caught in a set of doors leading into the clubhouse about 10 days ago. Beckett threw a bullpen session Tuesday, but said he still had trouble gripping the ball on off-speed pitches. He said he hopes to be ready to pitch after the Dodgers return from their opening games in Australia.
Beckett made eight starts in 2013 and posted a 5.19 ERA before needing surgery. He turns 34 in May.
JULIO IGLESIAS MIGHT NOT BE READY for the start of the season, which means the Detroit Tigers might go with Eugenio Suarez at shortstop. Chris Iott of MLive.com gives five reasons why, if Iglesias can't recover from shin problems in time for the opener, that Suarez would be the man. Here's reason No. 1:
1. Shortstop is his natural position: Hernan Perez is a second baseman who can play shortstop. Suarez is a shortstop. If the Tigers are going to call up someone to fill in, why not call up the guy who plays shortstop full-time?
"He's come out a little bit, especially defensively," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said Thursday regarding the impression Suarez has made this spring. "He might not have quite the range a guy like Iglesias has, but he's certainly got some really good hands, and he doesn't look over-matched out there.
"I haven't seen a ball come at him where there's any type of panic in his body. He's very collected out there when he's playing defense."
That said, Iott also says he expects Iglesias to be ready. That would be a relief to the likes of pitcher Rick Porcello. The Tigers could use the defense on the left side of the infield.
Jurickson Profar of the Texas Rangers is having four wisdom teeth removed Friday.
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