So this is how it's going to be? After losing Hisashi Iwakuma earlier in camp for an extended period, the Mariners announced today that righty Taijuan Walker will be shut down for 5-7 days after an MRI revealed shoulder inflammation.
Despite Manager Lloyd McClendon saying just yesterday morning that he himself was "not that concerned as we speak," the team flew Walker to Los Angeles for the aforementioned MRI, where he was tended to by Neal S. ElAttrache, Head Physician for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He agreed with what seems is an initial diagnosis by Mariners Medical Director Dr. Ed Khalfayan.
Why the second look? The team says just that it was "out of an abundance of caution."
Here's what McClendon had to say on the matter this morning, as told to The News Tribune's Bob Dutton, and other reporters:
"He has some inflammation in the bursa," McClendon said. "They’ll put him on anti-inflammatories. The plan is to not have him throw for seven days, and then get him back out on the mound.
"It’s a little bit of a setback. It is what it is, and we’ve just got to continue to move forward." [...]
"The MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging exams) were clean," McClendon said. "They were good. There was no structural damage with this guy. So everything is fine from that standpoint."
Bursitis, if this is just that, is about as minor as a shoulder injury can be. But the concern, of course, is that it isn't just that—though I'm not saying that's the case.
But we've heard "no structural damage" before:
Zduriencik on Hultzen-minor setback, rotator cuff irritation is back, no structural damage #Mariners— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) July 3, 2013
And, of course, Michael Pineda received a clean MRI during the drawn-out situation that eventually led to a torn labrum.
Shoulders are serious—they're obviously the part of a pitcher's body that you want hurt the least. And, sometimes, you really don't know that things are bad until they are.
But, that's the bad news, the pessimist's perspective. Going back, this is currently diagnosed only as bursitis, and bursitis really isn't much of anything, most of the time.
Starting with the worst reference I could find, Clay Bucholz missed 94 days last year after being diagnosed with bursitis and initially being shut down for a full four weeks. Now, before you say "uh, how can you say three months 'really isn't much of anything'?", there are a couple other examples.
Mat Latos, then with the Padres, was diagnosed with bursitis on March 25th of 2011 and missed only his Opening Day start, returning to pitch on April 9th against the Reds and striking out 7 over 6 innings.
This goes back a ways, but may still be familiar to many Mariners fans: Felix Hernandez suffered from bursitis in 2005 and was shut down for a month before making a start in Tacoma, and then his Major League debut in Seattle. Just a few starts later, he fanned 11 Kansas City Royals.
So is this concerning? Oh absolutely. But it could also be nothing at all. You have every right to fear the worst, but also to be hopeful that Walker will be fine. I've seen some suggest that this should knock Walker off the Opening Day roster, and that's a bit premature. Given the level of caution the Mariners have given the situation thus far, and expectedly will going forward, it's certainly possible. But it's no certainty at this point.
We'll have to keep our eye on this and hope for the best.
In other news, Iwakuma is headed to the doctor today, and could get news as soon as
tomorrow this afternoon that he can begin throwing again. Here's to hoping for good news for once.
Lloyd McClendon on Taijuan Walker, full audio: