Taijuan Walker on trade to the D-backs: ‘Change is definitely good’
When the Seattle Mariners plucked right-handed pitcher Taijuan Walker out of Yucaipa (Calif.) High School with the 43rd pick in the 2010 MLB June Amateur Draft, the sky was the limit.
Walker was immediately considered one of the top prospects in the Seattle organization and counted on to be a core member of the team for years to come.
Six-and-a-half-years later, he’s not even a member of the Mariners.
The Arizona Diamondbacks acquired the 24-year-old over the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, parting ways with infielder Jean Segura along with prospects Mitch Haniger and Zac Curtis.
All-in-all, Walker is happy for a change of scenery and a chance at a new start with the D-backs.
“I’m definitely happy,” Walker told Burns and Gambo Thursday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “I know everyone’s young and I’m pretty excited to be a part of that. It kinda sucks being traded because I wanted to spend my entire career with the Mariners, but change is definitely good.”
After three seasons in the minors, Walker made his big-league debut in 2013, when he made three starts for the Mariners. In parts of four MLB seasons, he’s 22-22 with a 4.18 ERA, 322 strikeouts in 357 innings and a 1.21 WHIP.
While he’s been largely average at the major-league level since his debut, something clicked for him late in the 2016 season. After getting tagged for three homers and five runs in just two-thirds of an inning in a loss to the Angels on Sept. 3, Walker found his groove over his last five starts, going 4-1 with a 2.93 ERA and 30 punchouts in 30.2 innings.
So what was the difference? First and foremost, improved mechanics and preparation.
“Me and (Seattle pitching coach) Mel Stottlemyre really worked on mechanics a lot,” Walker said. “Did a lot of video, did a lot of dry work and a lot of early work, and I think that really helped me get my legs back into it. We wanted to hide the ball a little bit more and kind of get everything a little bit sharper.”
Walker was also helped by improved health. He was bothered by foot and ankle issues throughout the season but felt better toward the end of the year. Still, he underwent surgery to remove a bone fragment in his right ankle in mid-October and is slated to be ready for the beginning of spring training.