Seattle Mariners

Mariners’ rotation tweak positions left-hander James Paxton for an extra start

Taijuan Walker will be skipped the next time through the pitching rotation and might not start another game this season, said Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon.
Taijuan Walker will be skipped the next time through the pitching rotation and might not start another game this season, said Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon. The Associated Press

Left-hander James Paxton is now lined up the get an extra start this season after Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon confirmed some tweaks in his rotation for the season’s closing days.

Paxton will start Friday’s series opener at Texas, which means he is swapping spots with lefty Vidal Nuno, who will start Saturday. Felix Hernandez will pitch Sunday in the series finale.

McClendon also confirmed that right-hander Taijuan Walker will be skipped on the next cycle through the rotation because of his career-high innings count and might not pitch again this season.

“He will not make his next start,” McClendon said, “and I’m not sure when he will start again. We will re-evaluate after the days off and see where we go from there.”

Walker has thrown 169 2/3 innings in his 29 starts. His previous high was 156 1/3 innings in 2013. Because of injuries, he pitched only 129 innings in 2014.

The weekend switch in Arlington, Texas, enables Paxton to get four more starts in an effort to build his innings. He returned last Sunday after missing

3 1/2 months because of a finger injury.

“We want to get him out there as much as we possibly can,” McClendon said.

Paxton is at 68 innings, counting three rehab starts at Triple-A Tacoma. The hope is he can get 25 innings or so in his four remaining starts and pick up another 30 in the Arizona Fall League.

If so, club officials believe Paxton will be positioned next season for a full workload.

Nuno’s start Saturday will be his first since he limited the Rangers to one hit in seven innings Sept. 9 in a 6-0 victory, although he did pitch two-thirds of an inning in relief last Sunday against Colorado.

Lefty Roenis Elias, who started last Saturday, will shift briefly to the bullpen before rejoining the rotation Sept. 22 in the series opener at Kansas City.

CLOSING COMFORT

The Mariners don’t have to a make an evaluation yet on whether Tom Wilhelmsen will be their closer in 2016, but McClendon is increasingly comfortable with that possibility.

“He’s done a really nice job,” McClendon said. “I’ve been very impressed. How he goes about his business — he’s really slowed the game down. He’s done a nice job. I wouldn’t have any trepidations at all.”

Wilhelmsen is perfect in eight save opportunities and hasn’t allowed a run in 10 2/3 innings since reclaiming the job in late August.

SO, WHO WINS?

Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano, each of whom continues to nurse a strained muscle, sparred amiably prior to the game over who would win in a race between the two.

Cruz: “Oh, there’s no doubt.”

Cano: “What?!?”

Cano’s basic point is he’s been playing in the field at second base, despite an abdominal strain, while Cruz, with a strained right quadriceps muscle, is limited to DH duty.

Cruz’s counterpoint was outfielders are required to do a lot more running.

Asked to arbitrate, McClendon said: “Nobody wins because neither one would cross the finish line.”

McClendon is hopeful Cruz can return this weekend to the outfield for games at Texas, which would permit Cano to draw some DH duty.

O’MALLEY OK

The absence of utilityman Shawn O’Malley from the starting lineup had nothing to do with getting beaned by a pickoff throw at second base Monday in the third inning.

While O’Malley sported a bruise, he played the entire game Monday and said he experienced no overnight problems that would prevent him from playing.

McClendon confirmed O’Malley’s absence from the lineup had nothing to do with any concern over Monday’s incident.

“He’s not an everyday player,” McClendon said. “I don’t want anybody to start think O’Malley is the second coming of Vince Coleman or somebody like that. Look, he’s doing a nice job. He’s a utility guy.

“He got hit (near) the jaw. He’s a little sore. But that’s not why he’s getting a day off. He could be completely healthy, and he’d be sitting on the bench.”

Brad Miller started in center field.

30 DOUBLES CLUB

Seth Smith became the third Mariner to reach 30 doubles when he lined a ball off the center-field wall Monday in the fifth inning of a 10-1 victory over the Angels.

Smith joined Robinson Cano (33) and Kyle Seager (32). The club isn’t likely to admit any more members; Nelson Cruz ranks fourth on the Mariners with 22 doubles.

Smith reached the milestone for the third time in his career. He had 32 doubles with Colorado in 2011 and 31 last season with San Diego.

INSTRUCTS OPEN

Roughly 60 players are scheduled to report Wednesday to the Mariners’ complex in Peoria, Arizona, for the start of the Instructional League.

The Mariners plan to field two clubs. Teams play 10-12 games before the season concludes Oct. 6. Dee Garner and Eddie Menchada will serve as managers.

The official roster does not list catcher Mike Zunino or shortstop Chris Taylor, who are each taking part to hone their batting skills. Acting general manager Jeff Kingston said both will work on their own programs.

Zunino and Taylor reported earlier this week to Peoria to limit the layoff since the Sept. 7 conclusion of Tacoma’s season. Kingston said it’s not certain whether either will participate in IL games.

The camp roster does include:

▪  Four players from the TNT Top 10 preseason ranking of the organization’s top prospects: outfielders Alex Jackson (1) and Austin Wilson (5), left-handed pitcher Luiz Gohara (8) and catcher Tyler Marlette (9).

▪  Eight of the club’s top 10 picks in the June draft: pitchers Nick Neidert, Andrew Moore, Cody Mobley and Darin Gillies; first baseman Ryan Uhl; shortstop Drew Jackson; third baseman Conner Hale; and outfielder Braden Bishop.

LOOKING BACK

It was four years ago — Sept. 16, 2011 — that right-hander Blake Beavan pitched eight innings in a 4-0 victory over Texas at Safeco Field.

Beavan, now 26, was 16-20 with a 4.61 ERA in four seasons with the Mariners following the six-player trade on July 9, 2010, that brought him from Texas.

He became a free agent after last season and signed a minor league deal with Arizona. Beavan made just four starts at Triple-A Reno prior to his July 3 release.

SHORT HOPS

Nelson Cruz entered Tuesday with 164 hits and needs two more to match his career high of 166 set last season at Baltimore. … Robinson Cano needed eight more hits, prior to Tuesday, to become the 14th player in major league history to reach 2,000 in his first 11 seasons. … Mark Trumbo, prior to Tuesday, had reached base safely in 16 straight games and in 36 of his last 40. He was batting .306 in that span with nine homers and 24 RBIs. … The Mariners, prior to Tuesday, led the American League with 200 extra-base hits.

ON TAP

The Mariners and Angels complete their three-games series at 7:10 p.m. Wednesday at Safeco Field. Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (7-4, 4.05 ERA) will face Los Angeles right-hander Jered Weaver (7-10, 4.71).

The game will be broadcast on Root Sports and 710-AM.

After an open date Thursday, the Mariners begin their final trip Friday with the first of three weekend games at Texas. They also have three games at Kansas City and three games against the Angels in Anaheim, California.

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.com

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