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D-backs starter Taijuan Walker throws off mound for 1st time since surgery

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Taijuan Walker throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Sunday, April 8, 2018, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Diamondbacks starting pitcher Taijuan Walker reached a milestone in his elbow injury recovery Tuesday by throwing off the mound for the first time, manager Torey Lovullo told Burns & Gambo on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

The right-hander tossed 20 pitches in the bullpen after requiring Tommy John surgery. He underwent that procedure to fix a partial tear to his UCL in mid-April.

“Really happy for him. Obviously it’s been a real long, grinding process,” Lovullo told reporters Tuesday. “I think it was a good day for Taijuan.”

Walker is hitting all his marks in the recovery schedule that the D-backs projected for him, the manager added.

The 26-year-old appeared in three games last year before injuring his throwing elbow. He allowed five earned runs in 13.0 innings before the injury ended his season.

In 2017, Walker’s first year with the Diamondbacks after being acquired in a trade from the Seattle Mariners, the pitcher made 28 starts, finishing the season with a 3.49 ERA and 1.33 WHIP.

Walker could be tabbed to return in 2019 sometime midseason if he continues to progress and was most recently placed on the 60-day injured list on Feb. 13. In the meantime, the Diamondbacks have filled the backend of their starting rotation with Luke Weaver via the Paul Goldschimdt trade and Merrill Kelly, who was signed as a free agent after playing the last four seasons in South Korea.

They join staples Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray and Zack Godley in the rotation.

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