Diamondbacks’ Blake Walston highlights consistency after spring training debut

Feb 26, 2024, 6:37 PM

Blake Walston...

Blake Walston of the Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training at Salt River Fields. (Arizona Sports Photo/Alex Weiner)

(Arizona Sports Photo/Alex Weiner)

MESA — The Arizona Diamondbacks gave run to three of their youngest pitching prospects in big league camp Monday against the Oakland Athletics at Hohokam Stadium to mixed results, starting with Blake Walston.

The 6-foot-5 lefty started with a four-pitch walk after a season with Triple-A Reno in which he walked 5.6 batters per nine innings, but he rebounded with a double play to end the first.

The command inconsistencies reappeared, as a walk and hit-by-pitch helped load the bases with one out in the second. Walston nearly escaped with a key strikeout, but he fell behind 3-0 against Oakland’s Nick Allen and allowed a two-run single on a 3-2 pitch.

Manager Torey Lovullo pulled his starter after nine batters, and Walston was frustrated by how often he fell behind.

“I thought he was good in spurts, he was a little frustrated with his outing I know after talking to him,” Lovullo said. “But after creating his own mess, he was one pitch away from getting himself out and just made a mistake … I thought overall the stuff was good, the shape of the stuff was good. He just needs to be a little more consistent, not allow that type of inning to blow up on him.”

Consistency was Walston’s theme postgame after a season in which he found success limiting damage in hitter-friendly Reno but struggled to punch out hitters (6.3 per nine innings). He had a 4.52 ERA — albeit with a 5.39 FIP.

When asked what he wanted to be more consistent with, the young lefty said “everything.”

“Consistent with my slider, curveball, cutter, everything, trying to be a little more dialed in with trying to throw it for a strike when I need to,” Walston said. “Getting ahead on hitters, that’ll give me the advantage I need.”

The cutter is a pitch Walston ditched last season due to its impact on his fastball, but he has picked it back up as a way to show different looks. His heater sits in the low 90s, which remained the case on Monday.

“Pretty satisfied with last year’s performance, obviously the strikeouts could have been a little bit higher,” Walston said. “We’re working, they’re helping me work on finding that pitch that will allow me to have more of that strikeout rate.”

Prospects Yu-Min Lin, Cristian Mena debut

Yu-Min Lin only recorded one out on Monday, as Lovullo felt the southpaw missed a lot arm side and struggled to command his pitches after a standout live batting practice session last week.

A couple ground ball singles bounced through, and the 20-year-old sailed a fastball for a run-scoring wild pitch. A three-run blast from Hoy Park tagged Lin with five earned runs.

Cristian Mena, 21, surrendered a walk but produced three weakly-hit balls in play for a scoreless inning. His fastball sat 95-96 mph, a step up in velocity from last year in the Chicago White Sox’s system. Mena came to Arizona in the Dominic Fletcher trade.

“A little inconsistent with the fastball but I love the shape of the secondary stuff,” Lovullo said. “I think there’s an extra gear in there. There’s some intensity in there and he wasn’t gonna allow anything bad to happen. That’s what it looked like from my seat.”

Mena and Lin are the two youngest pitchers in camp and have turned heads in bullpens and live BP.

Jordan Lawlar, Kristian Robinson get a hold of one

Shortstop Jordan Lawlar belted the first D-backs home run this spring off Oakland veteran Trevor Gott, a line drive to left-center in a display of pop he has boasted in the minors.

Outfielder Kristian Robinson hit a no-doubter against Adrian Martinez, 104 mph off the bat to left-center field.

“Good to see (Lawlar) hit in counts, just taking good, aggressive swings,” Lovullo said. “Kristian Robinson, I thought that was a pretty special moment for him to collect his first home run in big league camp. Jordan was fantastic today, he was on the baseball.”

Alek Thomas sidelined

Lovullo has been staggering using his starting infield and outfield in spring games, but Alek Thomas was out Monday with right wrist soreness that has been bothering him for a couple days.

“He’s been ball tracking out there without swinging,” Lovullo said. “He’s feeling fine. If he had to play today, he could. We thought it’d be smart to just pull back a little bit.”

Lovullo said there is nothing to be alarmed by going forward.

When will Zac Gallen start?

Ace starter Zac Gallen was on the slate to start Friday at the Cincinnati Reds in Goodyear, but the D-backs made a change. Gallen will start a simulated game on the back fields at Salt River Fields to save him a trip out west for a night game.

Merrill Kelly is scheduled to start on March 8, as the two top-end starters have been pulled back this spring to manage workloads. Kelly threw to six batters in live BP at Salt River Fields on Monday.

Eduardo Rodriguez will get the ball for his Diamondbacks debut Tuesday at home against the Texas Rangers.

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