Righty Taijuan Walker may not have returned in time to make a meaningful impact for the Diamondbacks this year, but he’ll throw at least one inning on the season. The club announced today that he’ll take the ball for a single-frame start on Sunday, as Zach Buchanan of The Athletic was among those to cover on Twitter.
Walker was expected to return much earlier after rehabbing nearly the way back from Tommy John surgery. But a shoulder injury put a halt to his progress — and raised yet more significant questions about his long-term outlook.
The brief outing represents a nice reward for the 27-year-old’s grinding recovery efforts. It’ll be his first time taking the big league hill since mid-April of last year. Walker had turned in a highly promising 2017 season, working to a 3.49 ERA in 157 1/3 innings, but only made it three starts into the ensuing campaign.
This appearance won’t change the immediate salary situation for Walker, who earned just over $5MM in 2019. He’s certain to receive a repeat salary in his final season of arbitration eligibility, with free agency beckoning at the tail end of the 2020 campaign. The stakes are high for player and team. With a healthy Walker, the D-Backs could have a strong rotation made up almost entirely of traded-for hurlers. And the talented righty will be looking to set the stage for free agency.