P.J. Walters reluctantly exits early with sore shoulder; DL-bound?
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MINNEAPOLIS -- P.J. Walters' start against the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday night lasted only four batters.
Walters was taken out of the game after only 15 pitches due to shoulder soreness and stiffness. The Twins said Walters had trouble getting loose in his pre-game bullpen session, and the plan is for him to undergo an MRI on Thursday.
After watching Walters load the bases with nobody out then give up an RBI single to Jim Thome, Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire came to the mound for an unusual first-inning visit. The skipper appeared to tell Walters he was going to take him out of the game, and Walters looked as if he was trying to talk Gardenhire into allowing him to pitch.
Gardenhire then signaled for trainer Dave Pruemer, and moments later he and Walters walked off the mound and back to the dugout. Jeff Manship took over in relief.
"You never want to leave the field like that," Walters said. "You always want to be healthy and help the team and the last thing you want to do is have the bullpen throw nine innings. The offense puts up eight runs and we lose. That's pretty much about as bad as you could have drawn it up. I didn't do my part tonight. ...
"It's just one of those things. I was stiff and couldn't get it going. Guys pitch through that all the time and today it just wasn't going to loosen up for me. ... I've never missed a start before. Obviously I don't think I'll be throwing for five days, but hopefully it's no big deal. We'll get it checked out tomorrow and go from there."
Of the 15 pitches thrown by Walters only two were clocked above 85 mph. His average fastball this season is 89 mph. The lack of velocity was likely a red flag, as Walters already operates with a thin margin for error with his best fastball.
Walters was charged with four earned runs in the game and didn't record an out. His ERA on the season ballooned to 5.40.
Prior to Wednesday Walters had not mentioned anything about shoulder discomfort to trainers or coaches.
"He got to the mound, and I thought he threw three changeups the first three pitches," Gardenhire said.
"He hasn't been in the training room, he's had no problems that we've known about, and when I went out there he said, 'I'm fine, I've got no problem.' I said, 'You're not fine. You're throwing 80 miles an hour, 82.' He threw one pitch at 85. I said, 'What's going on here?' He said, 'Skip I'm fine, I can do this.' But he was trying to protect our bullpen is what came out at the end. Finally he told me he had a sore shoulder. But no one knew about it. He didn't say anything. ...
"Obviously he's trying to pitch through something, and that's not a good way to go about it tonight, because it put us in a pretty big hole."
A couple weeks ago Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson were curious as to how Walters would respond after throwing a 110-pitch complete game in Chicago on May 22. He wound up allowing 11 earned runs in 15 1/3 innings over his next three starts, walking nine and striking out only eight.
The Twins have already lost Scott Baker, Carl Pavano and Nick Blackburn due to injury for various periods.