Taijuan Walker leaves Phillies game against Mariners with forearm injury

Starting pitcher Taijuan Walker left Wednesday night’s game early with a right forearm tightness, not a good sign for a Phillies team already struggling with multiple injuries in the starting rotation. .

Walker threw 68 pitches in four innings, but it became clear something was wrong when Luis Ortiz warmed up late in the fourth. He replaced Walker, who allowed five runs, all in the second inning.

After the match, manager Rob Thomson called it a precaution, but said Walker would be reassessed on Thursday.

“Talking to (head athletic trainer Paul Buchheit) he has no major concerns about it, more of a precaution than anything,” Thomson said. “He will see the doctor tomorrow and then we will reassess him.

“It was after the second run. Really at that point we had no worries. Then it lingered and we said enough was enough, let’s be smart and get it out.”

Walker’s night started with promise as he retired the Mariners in order in the first inning, needing just 10 pitches and knocking out Julio Rodriguez and Jarred Kelenic in his first career start against the team that drafted him in 2010. But after Nick Castellanos put the Phils ahead with a two-run homer, Walker ran into trouble with two outs in the second. He walked Cal Raleigh, allowed a field single to third base line AJ Pollock, walked Kolten Wong and served a first Grand Slam to former Phillie JP Crawford. The next hitter, Rodriguez, also went deep.

The free passes hurt Walker, who walked 14 in 25⅓ innings.

“That second inning, I just didn’t really have command or where (the ball) was going,” Walker said. “After that I slacked off a bit, still went the next two rounds. Not worried, just want to get ahead, probably could have continued but we didn’t want to make it worse.”

The Phillies played the first month of the season without Ranger Suarez and Andrew Painter, two projected members of their season-opening rotation who were sidelined early in spring training with elbow injuries. Suarez is expected to begin a rehabilitation mission on Thursday with Double A Reading and pitch two innings. He’s expected to make three or four starts in rehab before joining the Phillies in mid-May.

Painter started a throwing program about three weeks ago. The Phillies will slowly and carefully rebuild him in hopes he can contribute to big league level in the second half.

Walker was signed this offseason to a four-year, million-dollar contract. He was crazy in his first two outings with the Phillies, then bounced back with two straight quality starts heading into Wednesday night. If he’s forced to run out of time, the next man until Suarez returns would be southpaw Cristopher Sanchez, who started against the Rockies on Saturday.

The Phils came back to win the game on strong bullpen work and an eighth-inning rally that included four straight singles. Luis Ortiz, Seranthony Dominguez, Craig Kimbrel and Jose Alvarado combined four scoreless five innings with eight strikeouts and no walks.

“The bullpen did a really good job of getting me back,” Walker said. “They shut them down.”

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