Taijuan Walker sent a clear message to the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday night: He wants back into the big league rotation.
In his second rehab start in the Minors as he works his way back from right shoulder inflammation that shut him down during Spring Training, MLB.com's No. 6 overall prospect went five scoreless innings for Double-A Jackson in the Southern League, allowing just three hits and a walk while striking out 10.
"I felt really good. My arm feels good, 100 percent," Walker told MLB.com. "I feel like I can just go out there and play catch and not feel anything. It's good I can go out there and have no worries."
Walker threw 85 pitches in this second rehab outing. His first one came for Class A Advanced High Desert in the California League on April 4. Pitching for High Desert, the right-hander threw 72 pitches over 4 1/3 innings. He gave up two runs (one earned) on four hits, walking one and striking out seven. Walker said his feel and command were improved on Wednesday in rehab start No. 2.
"My curveball was much better than it was in High Desert," Walker said. "I threw a lot more of them tonight because it was working. My changeup is one of my best pitches right now, too."
Walker pronounced himself ready to get back to Seattle, where he made three solid starts late in the 2013 season. If it hadn't been for the shoulder issue, it seemed very likely the 21-year-old would have been in the Mariners' rotation at the start of the season.
"I want to get up there as soon as possible," Walker said. "Not only do I feel really good, but I wanted to go out there, pitch and compete. I wanted to make sure I was out there competing and throwing all my pitches for strikes, so when they do call me back up I'm ready to go out there and give my team a chance to win."
Walker said the plan was to get him up to 95-100 pitches before bringing him back up, a number he would get to with his next start. Whether that comes with Seattle or at one more Minor League stop remains to be seen. James Paxton was just put on the disabled list on Wednesday with a strained lat muscle behind his left shoulder. Paxton was slated to pitch on Sunday, which doesn't line up precisely with Walker's pitching schedule, but the rotation could be finagled to have Walker on the mound for Monday's game in Texas. The Mariners said a decision on when Walker will return has not been made as of yet.
"I don't know what the plan is," Walker said. "I'm hoping it's soon. If they want me to get one more start down here, wherever that is, I'll do that. But hopefully it comes soon, and I'll be ready."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter.