ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The day after Wednesday provided some reassurance for right-hander Taijuan Walker and the Mariners. It also provided a warning for the future.
Walker expects to make his scheduled start Sunday at Boston, and trainer Rick Griffin expressed confidence that Walker can minimize the likelihood of aggravating the foot problem that forced his departure Tuesday against Tampa Bay.
"He’ll be all right," Griffin said. "We can stabilize his foot, and we can do things to put him in position (to avoid problems). It’s not so much the pitching, it’s the preparation and all of the other things that go into (preparing) for you start.
"It gets flared up. Then he gets out on the mound, he irritates it."
Never miss a local story.
In short, Walker needs to be fully taped up before he works out or pitches. He wasn’t taped up for Tuesday’s start against the Rays. That won’t happen again.
"I’ve got enough tape for the next 10 years," Walker said. "Rick said, `I don’t care if you feel good or not. For the next 10 years, you’re going to tape.’
"I’ve taped before, but I was feeling good (before Tuesday’s game). I just kind of pushed off on a pitch, and it kind of flared up again."
The problem stems from Walker being flat-footed. When he pushes off the rubber, his foot arches and applies stress that can lead to problems.
Walker was in top form Tuesday before aggravating the tendon that attaches the calf muscle to the bones on the inside of his right foot — posterior tibial tendinitis. He first experienced the problem in the second inning but pitched into the fifth.
"It’s always going to be a little bit of an issue," Griffin said, "because he’s pigeon-toed and the way that he walks. He’s a 250-pound man. But there are certain things we can do to help control that."
Walker admitted he experienced the problem earlier in the season, which begs the question: Why wasn’t he fully taped up prior to his start Tuesday at Tropicana Field?
"The first home series against Texas," he said, "I jammed it (while) covering first base. It wasn’t as bad (as now). I taped it. In May, I wasn’t using my legs very much. I wasn’t really pushing off. So I didn’t really feel it."
The Mariners viewed that lack of a proper leg push as a reason that Walker struggled through seven winless starts in May and early June.
That point reemphasized, Walker returned to his power push June 8 and responded by pitching eight scoreless innings in a 5-0 victory over Cleveland. He began Tuesday’s game by striking out four straight hitters before problems hit.
"These last couple of starts," he said, "I started using my legs more. And (the tendinitis) flared up on me."
From now on, he’ll be taped up.
The timetable for Felix Hernandez’s return to active duty could come into clearer focus Thursday after club officials learn the results from the latest examination on his strained right calf muscle.
Hernandez hasn’t since May 27 and remains on limited activity in an effort to maintain arm strength. He was scheduled to undergo a re-examination Wednesday to gauge his recovery.
"He’s playing catch," Griffin reported. "He threw 25 (Tuesday) seated on a chair. Then he had his boot on, and he threw 30 standing up. That did not bother him. He’s obviously not throwing hard. He’s just doing things to keep his arm (active)."
Hernandez indicated recently that he didn’t expect to return until after the All-Star break, which club officials generally acknowledge as a reasonable target date.
Manager Scott Servais reiterated Wednesday that Hernandez, once cleared, will need a build-up program before returning to the rotation.
"It’s going to take some time," Servais said. "You can’t just fire him out there and expect six innings and 100 pitches right out of the chute. That’s not fair to him.
"Once we get closer to getting him playing catch and moving around better, then we can putting plans together. The longer it goes, the longer it takes to build him back up."
SNELL TO START
Tampa Bay plans to recall lefty Blake Snell, a former supplemental first-round pick from Shoreline, to start Thursday’s series finale against the Mariners.
Snell, 23, made his big-league debut earlier this season by limiting the New York Yankees to one run and two hits in five innings before settling for a no-decision. He was optioned back to Triple-A Durham after the game.
This time, Snell appears in line for a longer stay because the Rays are shifting right-hander Matt Andriese to the bullpen. Snell is 3-5 with a 3.29 ERA this season in 12 starts at Durham.
Snell was the 52nd overall pick in the 2011 draft as 18-year-old senior from Shorewood High School. He entered the season ranked by Baseball America as the Rays’ top prospect.
The Mariners are positioned to have a second full-season affiliate guarantee itself a spot in postseason.
Lo-A Clinton is looking to join Double-A Jackson as a first-half pennant winner. The LumberKings entered play Wednesday trailing first-place Peoria (Cardinals) by just one game in the Midwest League Western Division.
Clinton also held a 2 1/2-game lead over Cedar Rapids (Twins) for the Western Division wild-card berth with seven games remaining.
Jackson clinched the Southern League North Division pennant last Saturday and, in doing so, became the first club in minor-league baseball to secure a postseason berth.
Triple-A Tacoma entered Wednesday with a two-game lead over Reno (Diamondbacks) in the Pacific Coast League Pacific Northern Division. The PCL does not divide its season.
It was eight years ago Thursday — June 16, 2008 — that the Mariners fired general manager Bill Bavasi after 4 1/2 years on the job.
The club appointed Lee Pelekoudas as an interim replacement before hiring Jack Zduriencik after the season. Zduriencik remained the GM until Aug. 28, 2015.
Edwin Diaz’s five strikeouts Tuesday matched a franchise rookie record for a reliever. It had been done on five previous occasions, most recently by Carson Smith (July 7, 2015 vs. Detroit)…the Mariners’ staff registered its 29th game Tuesday of have 10 or more strikeouts. That leads all American League clubs. Houston ranked second with 24…Nelson Cruz, through Tuesday, is batting .346 (36-for-104) in his last 27 games…Robinson Cano needs one more homer to become the all-time leader among American League second basemen. He entered Wednesday tied with Joe Gordon at 246. Cano’s career total of 257 includes 11 when not playing second base.
The Mariners and Rays conclude their season series at 10:10 a.m. Pacific time Thursday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Lefty James Paxton (0-2 with a 2.25 ERA) will face Tampa Bay lefty Blake Snell (1-0, 1.80). The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.
The Mariners altered their rotation this week after the open date to shift Paxton ahead of right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, who will start Friday’s series opener at Boston. The move separates Paxton from the rotation’s other lefty, Wade Miley.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners