Walker Intrigues M's With Athleticism, Pitchability





SEATTLE—The Mariners, who had dipped into the college ranks for their first pick in the last two drafts, changed course this time with the selection of Taijuan Walker, a righthander from Yucaipa (Calif.) High.

Scouting director Tom McNamara loves the athleticism of the 6-foot-5 Walker, an electric athlete who doubles as a center in basketball.

"Taijuan (pronounced Taiwan) is a very athletic pitcher with an above-average fastball and a high ceiling," McNamara said. "We believe that he has the ability to develop into a top-of-the-rotation type of pitcher, and we are very excited to have him in the Mariners organization.

"There is a lot of upside with this guy. Everybody in that (draft) room was happy that he was next up on our board when it was our turn to pick."

McNamara and general manager Jack Zduriencik said that going for a high school player was nothing more than taking the next player on the club's board when the 43rd pick in the draft rolled around. Seattle surrendered its first-round pick for signing Chone Figgins away from the Angels.

"I  have no philosophy on taking a high school player against a collegiate player," McNamara said. "You take the best player. This kid is 17 years old with a chance to fill out, and a lot of time to develop. We are really excited he was there."

Walker is represented by Larry Reynolds, the brother of former Mariners second baseman and current TV commentator Harold Reynolds, and is considered an easy sign. He had not committed to a college program.

Walker is coming off a senior season where he went 10-4, 1.77 while leading Yucaipa to the championship game of the California high school playoffs. He struck out 63 in 67 1/3 innings and allowed just six extra-base hits all year, none of them home runs.

Walker consistently throws 91-93 mph and has been clocked as high as 95, a velocity he may reach more consistently as he adds strength.

"What I like about him is that it's rare to see high school guys with the ability to throw offspeed stuff," McNamara said. "But he flashes it."

MARINADE

• The Mariners recalled Triple-A Tacoma first baseman Mike Carp with the promise, from manager Don Wakamatsu, of extensive playing time. Carp batted .250/.319/.457 with 10 homers and 31 RBIs in 184 at-bats for the Rainiers.

• Double-A West Tenn righthander Michael Pineda had positioned himself for a promotion to Tacoma with his fast start: 5-1, 2.20 with 63 strikeouts, 14 walks and one home run allowed over 57 innings.