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Mariners to skip Walker's next start

Shutting down right-hander remains an option

SEATTLE -- Taijuan Walker will be skipped in his next start and the young right-hander could be shut down for the remainder of the season, though manager Lloyd McClendon said Tuesday that decision hasn't been finalized.

Walker, 23, has thrown a career-high 169 2/3 innings, after totaling 120 last year, and the Mariners want to be careful with the hard-throwing youngster in his first full season in the rotation. Walker is 11-8 with a 4.56 ERA in 29 starts after holding the Angels to one run and four hits in seven innings in a 10-1 win Monday.

"I'm not sure when he's going to start again," McClendon said. "We'll reevaluate after the days off and see where we are and go from there."

The Mariners have three off-days amid their remaining 17 contests. Combined with the return of James Paxton from the disabled list, that gives McClendon plenty of rotation options to close out the year.

Paxton will start Friday's series opener in Arlington, as the Mariners begin their final nine-game road trip of the year, with Vidal Nuno to follow Saturday and Felix Hernandez on Sunday against the Rangers.

Following an off-day Monday, Roenis Elias will pitch Tuesday's series opener at Kansas City. McClendon didn't commit beyond that game, but Hisashi Iwakuma remains in the mix, as well, and he did say the club wants to get Paxton as many starts as possible after his 15-week stint on the DL with a strained finger tendon.

Paxton will thus stay on a five-day rotation and get four more starts, while everyone else figures to have at most three remaining outings in the final 16 games following Hernandez's start Tuesday night.

Worth noting

• The Mariners bullpen has solidified greatly since Tom Wilhelmsen became the closer three weeks ago and McClendon said he'd be OK going into next season with the 31-year-old in that role.

"He's done a real nice job," McClendon said. "I've been very impressed with how he goes about his business. He's really slowed the games down and has done a nice job. I wouldn't have any trepidations at all."

• McClendon said he's hopeful Nelson Cruz's sore quad will be healthy enough to allow him to play right field by the weekend series in Texas, as that would allow him to use Robinson Cano at DH for a game or two. Cano has been dealing with a strained abdominal muscle.

Shawn O'Malley still had a bump on his head from getting nailed by a pickoff throw at second base on Monday, but was OK to play Tuesday. McClendon had Brad Miller in the lineup in center instead of O'Malley, but said that wasn't injury related. O'Malley remained in Monday's game after the second-inning incident and said he didn't have any after-effects.

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast.
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