It's weird. When the Mariners announced they had banished Aaron Harang to the island of misfit toys earlier this week, I knew against all better judgement that it was going to be Taijuan Walker on the other end of the phone, putting his Mariners uniform on for today's start. I knew it, and I still think it might not have been the best decision, but screw it. I was excited to finally see him pitch in a Major League game.
At least, I thought I was excited. I watched the news break on Twitter. I saw this.
Oh man this is crazy lol— Taijuan Walker (@tai_walker) August 30, 2013
There were rumblings about which bar to meet people at to watch the game. There were excited statements from all ends of the Mariners blogosphere, only tempering the unbridled excitement of "maybe he'll throw a no-hitter!" with realizations that he is going to be shut down in a few weeks anyway.
I wasn't going to be watching Aaron Harang. I wasn't going to be watching Jeremy Bonderman. I was finally going to see the most touted pitching prospect this organization has fielded since Felix Hernandez, and it seems only slightly hyperbolic to say that as Walker goes, so go the Mariners. I was excited.
But then I typed his name into the subheadline field above and I felt a completely unfamiliar wave wash over me like a warm blanket. This is probably going to be the most important game of the 2013 Mariners season, and unlike lucking into August 15th of last year, we know it's going to happen whether he pitches well or not. As I typed his name in the box, something was like wait no this isn't right and then I finished typing and looked at it and thought wait no this is and then this is really happening.
I'm trying to calm myself down and not blow my balloon up too fast. Taijuan Walker is 21 years old. He struggles with command. He has never pitched in a a regular season MLB game before. His awesome 2013 10.05 K/9 has been muddied with a BB/9 of 4.24. He has constantly been associated with trade rumors as bait. It's possible he will be shipped out for a free agent this winter. But you know what? Today is going to be fucking awesome. I'll relax tomorrow. Today? Nope.
Back on planet Earth, there are eight other positions to be filled in tonight's second game against the Astros. Abraham Almonte gets the start in right field with Morse wearing an Orioles uniform now. This will be a friendly face for Walker, as the two were called up from Tacoma in unison this morning. They probably sat next to each other on the plane.
Kendrys Morales is DH'ing, and if Ken Rosenthal's account is to be trusted, he is coming off of a failed contract extension with the Seattle front office, sure to hit FA this fall and leap into an expensive price bracket. Which doesn't mean anything about whether or not he will be wearing an M's uniform next year (but it does mean that he will be playing a lot more DH through the month of September).
I don't know how to close this. Were Felix pitching, I would link the song. It's Walker's first start, and maybe he will stick with us and be Felix 2 and engender his own game thread tradition. For today, let's just ignore the command issues and high walk rate and just take a nice closing, somewhat meaningless sans-context overstated peek at his strikeouts over his last ten games and realize that we are entering a new era of Mariners baseball today.