Taijuan Walker started with a skip over the foul line and a stroll up the mound. He ended his outing Friday with a fist bump with James Paxton in the Mariners dugout.

In between, Walker fired fastballs and cutters and curveballs at near full strength.

No, it wasn’t a real start. But the Mariners’ 21-year-old right-hander said he isn’t far off from that.

Walker, the organization’s top pitching prospect, threw 56 pitches in a three-inning simulated game Friday afternoon, then said afterward he’s ready to start a minor-league rehab assignment.

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“I think I’m ready, yeah,” he said. “Everything felt good today. I didn’t get tired at the end. I felt like I was strong. I could’ve gone another inning or so.”

Walker, in his second simulated game of the week, sat at 93-94 mph with his fastball Friday. He mixed in some cutters and about 10 curveballs to Brad Miller, Nick Franklin and Cole Gillespie.

“Today was good. Real good,” he said. “Everything was game-mode. I wasn’t trying to hold back anything. I just went right after ’em.”

Walker has made some mechanical changes to his delivery, specifically with his leg drive and follow-through, that he said he thinks will help.

“I definitely think so,” he said. “I feel like after I pitch a game, the next day I won’t be as sore as I usually would because I’m using my legs and finishing, so I’m taking all that stress off my arm.”

Paxton, the Mariners’ young left-hander, will make his first rehab assignment for Tacoma on Saturday in the first game of the Rainiers’ doubleheader. He has been sidelined since April 8 with a strained right latissimus dorsi.


Robinson Cano, with a single in the first inning, extended his streak of reaching base to 30 games, the longest active streak in the majors.

Michael Saunders was out of the lineup Friday, a day after his hustle play at first base delivered the Mariners a 3-1 victory over the Astros. Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said he again watched the replay of Saunders beating out an infield single. “It was amazing what he did,” McClendon said. “I’ve never seen that before.”

Adam Jude: 206-464-2364

or ajude@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter: @a_jude