Taijuan Walker’s strong start in return a silver lining for Mets

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The bats and bullpen didn’t hold up their ends Saturday night, but the Mets have to feel good about what they received from starting pitcher Taijuan Walker in his return from the injured list.

The 2021 All-Star hurled five shutout innings in a 4-1 loss to the Phillies, his first start in nearly three weeks. Walker had posted two scoreless frames in his first outing of the season, on April 11 in Philadelphia, before leaving with a shoulder injury that later was diagnosed as bursitis.

“I felt really good, just the shoulder and getting through five innings finally, and feeling good with it,” said Walker, who also was slowed by a knee injury at the start of spring training. “My shoulder feels great, my knee feels great. I’m looking forward to getting back to my routine and pitching again in five days.”

The 29-year-old righty said Friday that his “shoulder feels brand new” since he received an injection during his stay on the injured list. He allowed two singles — by Nick Castellanos in the second and Alec Bohm in the third — and walked two on 73 pitches before Trevor May relieved him with a 1-0 lead to start the sixth.

Taijuan Walker
Corey Sipkin

“I think one more outing where I’m limited as far as pitch-count, but I feel like I’ll be able to go six to seven innings and keep up with our starters right now,” Walker said. “Everyone is going deep into games and that’s kind of the goal for me right now, to go out there and to try to get deep into games.”

Mets manager Buck Showalter simply is glad to have Walker, who also picked Castellanos off first base following his single, healthy and available.

“It was good to see him get back in the fight with us,” Showalter said. “It’s been tough on him, being away. It looks like hopefully he’s put himself in a position to contribute.

“He had good life on his fastball, had all of his pitches, and he felt good physically. It was a tough decision in the fifth inning, but I wanted him to get the fifth if I could. … He was close to where we wanted to take him, that’s why I had a pitcher ready in case there was an issue there, but he was able to finish the fifth.”

Walker’s next scheduled turn likely will be in Philadelphia next weekend, which would mean his first three spread-out starts this season would be against Joe Girardi’s club.

“I feel like I got like six pitches now I can throw out there,” Walker said. “I would like to throw more first-pitch strikes and get ahead more, but I think I am just keeping them off balance. I think I gave up like one or two hard-hit balls tonight. If I can limit the hard contact and keep them off-balance, I think I can have pretty good success.”

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