Walker Struggles, Montero Suspended

It’s been a tough 24 hours in Tacoma.

First, phenom Taijuan Walker got knocked around by an Iowa Cubs team that has struggled to score runs. Then, we learned that first baseman Jesus Montero is being suspended for the remainder of the season.

The first item was definitely more of a surprise than the second.

Walker certainly wasn’t sharp yesterday, but he didn’t get much help from his defense, either.

In the first inning, he struck out the first batter and the next singled solidly, bringing slow-running Edgar Gonzalez to the plate. Gonzalez hit a routine double-play grounder to shortstop – and instead of ending the inning, the ball went right through Carlos Triunfel‘s legs for an error. The inning should have been over – instead, Walker needed seven pitches to strike out Brad Nelson for the second out, he walked Dave Sappelt to load the bases, and then Mike Olt hit (what turned out to be) a ground-rule double into the left field corner on a full-count pitch.

The error cost the Rainiers two runs, and it cost Walker about 20 pitches.

Walker retired the leadoff man in the second inning, and then J.C. Boscan hit a jam-shot looper towards first base. A more experienced first baseman would have caught the ball – but learning-on-the-job Montero had trouble reading it and it sailed over his head for a single.

Then Walker started leaving pitches up in the zone, and the hard hits came: Jae-Hoon Ha smoked a long two-run double to left-center, and Nelson doubled off the top of the wall in deep left-center for another run.

Walker ended up lasting three innings, allowing five runs (three earned) on seven hits. He walked one and struck out two. He’s now allowed 14 runs in his last 14 innings.

I talked a little about this in the postgame show: it’s OK for Walker to get lit up every now and then here in Tacoma. These are the best hitters he’s ever faced in his life – it’s going to take some time for him to adjust to the more skilled batters. Even Felix Hernandez got toasted in the PCL a few times.

As for Montero, his name has been linked to the Biogenesis scandal since the beginning. He has agreed to accept a 50-game suspension.

Normally for minor leaguers, this would mean the final 28 games of 2013, and the first 22 of 2014. However, Shannon Drayer reports that the suspension is through the 2013 season only – which would’ve been the case if the Mariners had simply called up Montero yesterday; then he would have been suspended (without pay) for the final 50 games of the MLB season, and ready for spring training next year. Looks like MLB nipped that in the bud by just saying he’s out for the rest of 2013, regardless.

At any rate, 2013 has been a lost season for Montero. At least he got a few reps in at first base. I suspect he’ll play in the Venezuelan Winter League in November and report to spring training ready to go.

Tonight’s game is at 7:05, and you can hear it on South Sound Sports 850 AM, streaming right here, and available via the TuneIn app for iPads and smart phones. Tacoma starts RHP Blake Beavan (4-4, 5.13) against Iowa RHP Justin Grimm (0-2, 11.57).

Links:

  • The Rainiers game story from The News Tribune has reaction from Walker and manager John Stearns – who thinks Taijuan got squeezed. Of note: Walker’s next start is slated for Albuquerque – a total launching pad.
  • Here is Larry Stone’s Seattle Times news story on the Jesus Montero suspension.
  • Former Rainiers pitcher Michael Pineda – who the Mariners traded for Montero – had a setback as he recovers from shoulder surgery.
  • The ancient Mariners beat Baltimore yesterday, 3-2.
  • Reliever Stephen Pryor is out for the season.
  • Jay Jaffe of Sports Illustrated has a player-by-player look at the Biogenesis suspensions.
  • Here’s a feel-good story about Kyle Seager and a kid in Houston.
  • A sleeper in the Mariners farm system had a huge week in the Midwest League.
  • The Detroit Tigers called up Jeremy Bonderman and will use him as a reliever.
  • Tacoma is still four games behind first-place Salt Lake, who lost at home to Omaha yesterday, 6-3. Omaha’s Ben Broussard was 3-for-4 and won the PCL Player of the Week award.
  • Oklahoma City took down Colorado Springs, 5-2, and the RedHawks have won ten straight games.
  • Brad Hand was dealing and New Orleans cruised to a 5-1 win over Reno.
  • Las Vegas ended a five-game losing streak as Rafael Montero delivered a strong start in Memphis.
  • Sacramento stayed tied with Vegas for first place in the South by beating Round Rock, 3-1. Bruce Billings notched his PCL-leading 11th win.
  • Tucson scored four times in the top of the ninth to beat Nashville and remain two games out of first in the South.
  • Fresno topped Albuquerque, 2-1, as Juan Perez saved the day with a diving catch in right field to end the game (link includes video).

Pacific Northwest broadcasting legend Bob Robertson joins me on the air tonight – he’ll call the middle three innings. There are three more Monday’s With Bob after this one – we’ve got lots of them in August!

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