SEATTLE -- Top prospect Taijuan Walker only made three big league starts before the Mariners shut him down for the season, but that was plenty of time for the 21-year-old to impress fans, coaches and players alike. Walker showed off a silky-smooth delivery that made his blistering 97-mph fastball and wrist-breaking curve all the harder to hit.
In his three starts, Walker went 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA, striking out 12 batters in 15 innings. He'll remain with the Mariners for the rest of the season, soaking up the Major League atmosphere and getting to know his teammates.
"Everything now is just about his offseason and planning and preparing for next year," manager Eric Wedge said. "I think it's a good thing to be up here and watch big league baseball and watch his teammates compete and feel good about his year."
Did he pitch well enough to secure a spot in the Mariners' 2014 rotation?
"I think so, but in the end, it's up to them," Walker said. "I just have to go into the offseason and work hard and wait for next year. ... I've been shut down before. It isn't fun to watch everybody else pitch, but I'll do my best to cheer the team on and help them win."
If all goes as planned, it won't be long before Walker is back on the mound in a Mariners uniform, and Seattle fans should expect many chances to watch the young flame-thrower next year.
"No doubt about it," Wedge said.
Smoak plunks Astros' Crowe in wild sequence
SEATTLE -- Trevor Crowe helped the Astros score their final run in Houston's 6-4 victory over the Mariners on Monday night, hitting a popup to foul territory in right field. But Crowe received pain for the gain when he was plunked by first baseman Justin Smoak's throw home while crouching in foul ground near the plate as Jonathan Villar sprinted home from third.
"That was a crazy play," Crowe said after the game. "I saw Smoak catch the ball, and I was kind of like, 'Oh my God, did I just foul out right there?' I put my head down and I felt something hit me and I looked to the right and there was the baseball, and I see Villar scampering home."
The wild play was even more unlikely given the situation. Crowe, a switch-hitter, was batting right-handed, so a foul popup to the opposite side was unexpected.
"I looked at the runner to see what he was doing, and he broke towards home so I threw it," Smoak said. "I didn't even look at home. So I let it go and the ball was halfway there and I saw him sitting there. It's part of the game, but right-handed batters don't normally foul out there."
• The Mariners' young bullpen has wreaked havoc on opposing batters this year, and enters Tuesday's game against the Astros with 473 strikeouts, just four shy of the franchise record for strikeouts by relievers in a season. The current crop of relievers is on pace to strike out 532 batters in 2013, which would rank sixth all-time.
"Some fantastic arms down there," manager Eric Wedge said. "Unfairly, they've all been thrown in vital roles at one time or another. Like you usually do, we've had some things happen to us that you normally just don't count on.
"But I tell you this, when you look at the future arms in our bullpen, you've got to be pretty optimistic about it, because there's a lot of potential down there and they understand now what it means to have success."
Jacob Thorpe is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.