The last two starts have been very encouraging compared to the first two starts for Taijuan Walker this season. Last week, due to a runaway pitch count, he couldn’t finish the 6th inning, but he still only gave up the 1 run in a game the Mariners would go on to blow. Last night, he went seven fantastic innings while giving up only 1 run (none earned). This is what we’re going to need.
The biggest difference, in my eyes? Walker’s velocity is back up to where it’s supposed to be (mid-90s) and he’s not dicking around anymore. He won this job out of spring training because he went right after guys and let his stuff get them out. It seemed to me early on in the first couple starts that he was trying to work in his offspeed stuff a little too much. Last night especially, it looked like he was leaning extra heavy on his fastball. While he wasn’t always hitting his spots exactly, he climbed the ladder really well and got guys to chase after his hard stuff.
If he’s going to make it through this year and keep us in contention, he’s probably going to have to rely on his fastball much more than he would otherwise. It’s tough, because this should be a year of growth and maturity – from a pitching perspective. When you’re in a Major League rotation for the first time out of Spring Training, you want to work in all your pitches, take your lumps, but ultimately come out of it all better for the work you’ve put in. However, with the expectations surrounding this team, Walker – nor the Mariners – can afford a season where he works on his craft. We need him to get outs, plain and simple. And, if that means throwing an exorbitant percentage of fastballs, then so be it.
It’ll be interesting to see if he sticks with that program. I think we all ultimately want Taijuan Walker to be the complete package. Here’s to hoping he can work on perfecting his offspeed stuff on his off-days.