Arizona Diamondbacks: Taijuan Walker continues impressive spring
By Mark Brown
Fans of the Arizona Diamondbacks should be pumped about one pitcher right now in spring training. Right-hander Taijuan Walker has a 0.00 ERA in his first three spring starts.
If the word dominant appears in the dictionary of the Arizona Diamondbacks this spring, look for a picture of right-hander Taijuan Walker. Heralded as one with significant upside, Walker has been lights out in his three spring starts.
His capture of the Arizona camp continued Friday with a formidable effort and near absolute conquest of the visiting Milwaukee Brewers. Now only was Walker around the strike zone, throwing first-pitch strikes and commanding both sides of the plate, his experimentation with a curve and slider could make him potentially more lethal to opposing hitters.
Facing 13 hitters Friday in an eventual 6-3 Arizona victory over Milwaukee, Walker encountered just one batter over the limit for his four innings of work. Walker allowed no hits, walked third baseman Travis Shaw with two outs in the fourth as the only Brewers hitter to reach base and fanned eight hitters. Afterward, Walker told Venom Strikes his approach was simple.
"I wanted to pound the strike zone. I was able to get the first pitch strike and felt good. One goal (in spring training) is to get the slider and curve in for first-pitch strike. As a pitcher, you need to keep hitters off balance. I have confidence to throw a first pitch curve and slide just to keep them off balance."
If Walker now measures his steps to start the season, manager Torey Lovullo sees a clear progression. Above all, Lovullo told Venom Strikes, Walker is the ideal student.
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"He’s a great learner and asks great questions. It’s hard to believe he’s that young. We’re giving him space to operate and I’m anxious to see where this leads. We’re taking the ride with him right now."
Last season, Walker’s productivity was slowed due to an ankle injury. The native of Yucaipa, Calif. managed an 8-11 season with Seattle and posted a 4.22 ERA in 25 starts. The power arm and strikeout capability Walker displayed Friday against the Brewers was evident last season. Turning in 134.1 innings, the 6-4, 235-pounder recorded 119 strikeouts.
After three starts, Walker seems on target to open the season behind Zack Greinke, whom Lovullo already named as his opening day starter. Going forward, Walker told Venom Strikes the plan is to keep it simple, and building strength, at this point, is paramount.
"Got a little tired in the fourth and my fast ball tailed off. But, that will get better. Key going forward is my stamina. It was hot (Friday), so I want to make sure my stamina is up."
Scratched on Friday
Both outfielder Yasmany Tomas and infielder Jack Reinheimer were in the starting lineup for Friday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Salt River. Tomas was taken out due to discomfort in his back, and Reinheimer felt ill just before the game.
Ildemaro Vargas replaced Reinheimer at second base and hit second. Jeremy Hazelbaker went in for Tomas and hit sixth in manager Torey Lovullo’s lineup.
The Diamondbacks take on the San Francisco Giants for the next two days. On Saturday at Salt River, left-hander Robbie Ray starts for Arizona and on Sunday at Scottsdale Stadium, look for Archie Bradley to get the ball.
Next: Corbin remains in running for rotation spot
Starters for the Giants are to be named, and San Francisco will split its squad on Saturday. Half will bus over to Salt River, and the other half will take on Cincinnati at Scottsdale Stadium.