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D-backs’ Christian Walker takes pride with improved defense at first base

Arizona Diamondbacks' Christian Walker fields a ground-out hit by Colorado Rockies' Raimel Tapia during the first inning of a baseball game Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

After being blocked by Chris Davis in Baltimore and Paul Goldschmidt when he first arrived in Arizona, Christian Walker finally got his chance at the big league level last season.

Suffice to say Walker had big shoes to fill after Goldschmidt was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals after the 2018 season.

Goldschmidt was the face of the franchise in Arizona as not only a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate with the bat, but also a Gold Glove defender.

Walker had a decent chance to replace the offense provided by Goldschmidt, as he had slugged 50 home runs across two seasons with the D-backs’ AAA affiliate.

What was unknown is if Walker could come close to Goldschmidt with the glove.

He not only came close to Goldschmidt defensively last season, he passed the longtime D-backs first baseman.

Walker finished second in the Gold Glove race for National League first basemen in 2019, while Goldschmidt finished third.

“It started spending some time around guys like Nick (Ahmed) and Goldy (Goldshmidt) a few years ago,” Walker told the media in a Zoom call on Saturday. “Learning that the small details, the basics matter.”

“Doing the things you’re expected to do but doing them really, really well.”

While Walker said he was always confident in his ability in the field, he admitted he wasn’t known as a superb defender.

Much like Goldschmidt, who was also known more as a traditional offense-first player at first, hard work made the difference and turned Walker into a valuable player on both sides of the ball.

“Every time we talk about it and I thank them for the work they put in … they always say something to the effect of it wouldn’t be this way if you weren’t so concerned with it,” Walker said.

Along with hard work, Walker also attributed the improvement to his time spent with coach Tony Perezchica.

“Tony has been great with me, giving me a ton of reps and making sure there is a dialogue,” Walker said. “These little cues that he’s throwing at me over the years make a lot of sense.”

Walker mentioned he just wants to make sure he is prepared for everything and to do his best to slow the game down as he said other teammates like Eduardo Escobar and Ketel Marte have done.

While Walker doesn’t pay much attention to the accolades during the season, he called the second-place finish for Gold Glove exciting, validating and motivating.

Walker has continued his good defense halfway through the shortened 2020 season, having not made an error so far in 21 games at first base.

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