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SEA@HOU: Walker fans six in first start of 2014

He's back.

Taijuan Walker, the Mariners' top prospect and No. 5 in MLB.com's Top 100, will rejoin the Seattle rotation for Wednesday's series finale against the Mets.

The hard-throwing 21-year-old, who missed much of the early season with shoulder problems, struggled with his command (five walks in four innings) in his last big league start, a 1-0 loss to the White Sox on July 6.

He was then sent down to Triple-A Tacoma to keep him pitching over the All-Star break and now returns with a shot to stick. He's 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA in two starts with Seattle this year and 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA in five starts over the past two seasons, having made a brief appearance with the Mariners in the final month last season.

Manager Lloyd McClendon said he told Walker, "Here's your opportunity. Go get it."

Both Walker and McClendon are optimistic that the fastball command that has eluded him this season has been restored in recent bullpen work.

"I think he's better. He's worked out some things down there, from a mechanical standpoint, to try to get him straightened out a little," McClendon said. "Hopefully he'll be more efficient in the strike zone this time out. We'll see."

Walker said he compared video of his throwing motion from last year to this year and thinks he found a flaw.

"I think it all comes down to my lower half. I was flying open and my release point was all over the place," he said. "But my fastball command was there in my last bullpen. I could feel the difference. I felt like I was able to explode and finish everything out front instead of side to side."

Walker will face veteran Bartolo Colon, who is 8-8 and whose ERA has swelled to 4.12 ERA with 17 runs allowed in his last 26 innings.

Colon left his last start early with a stomach illness, but he should be healthy Wednesday in what could be an audition for the approaching non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31.

Mariners: Walker not worrying about trade rumors
Walker's name has been mentioned prominently in trade rumors the past few weeks as the Mariners are in need of offensive help and the youngster is one of their top trade chips, but he says he's trying not to get caught up in that.

"It's kind of hard not to," he said. "Especially when you've got family and friends always calling and asking, 'Hey, where are you going?' You going here? You going here?' It's tough, but you try to block it out as much as possible."

Some of the information is coming from a close source.

"My mom's the worst," he said with a grin. "I have to calm her down. 'Mom, calm down, I can't do anything about it.'"

Mets: Outfield saddled by injuries
The Mets' outfield could get a boost Wednesday, as manager Terry Collins is hopeful both Curtis Granderson (illness) and Chris Young (left calf) will be available to play.

The pair was held out on Tuesday night, with Granderson on fluids and completely unavailable.

"He came in and said, 'I don't think I can go,'" Collins said of Granderson. 

Eric Young Jr. started in left field in the 3-1 Mets win, with Juan Lagares in center and Kirk Nieuwenhuis in right. Bobby Abreu was at designated hitter, as originally planned.

Worth noting
• Despite their left-handed-heavy lineup, the Mariners are 22-13 against left-handed starters this year and have won 10 of their last 15 after beating the Mets' Jonathon Niese on Monday. Seattle's 22 wins against southpaws are the most in the Majors, ahead of the Tigers (21), Angels (20) and A's (18).

• Right-hander Jeremy Hefner pitched three innings of one-run ball Tuesday in his third rehab start for the Rookie-level Gulf Coast Mets. Hefner underwent Tommy John surgery in August, and hopes to pitch for the Mets this September.

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