Cactus League Report: Taijuan Walker on his spring performance
If you missed “The Cactus League Report” Monday night, you missed a great show if I do say so myself. But fear not; we have a podcast.
Up first was new Mariners third-base coach Manny Acta. I was glad to have him on the show because he has been a tough guy to track down this spring. The coaches have been putting in a tremendous amount of work, arriving in the 5 a.m. hour each day and not seeing their days end until game evaluations are done, often a couple of hours after the final pitch. I honestly don’t know how they do it.
So it was good to have 20 minutes to talk with Acta. I’d talked with him in the past and knew with his experience that he would be a fantastic guest on the show, and he certainly delivered. Among other topics, he talked about his diverse experience in baseball, his relationship with manager Scott Servais and a number of the Mariners’ new philosophies, including their use of analytics. He has long been a supporter.
“We have to use it,” Acta said. “Those numbers, they show you and they prove you what’s right and what’s wrong. We need to communicate it to the players and show it to them. You have to explain to them and convince them that we are doing the right thing. Here we have a very good analytical department and we have been very aggressive here in spring training because we think it is a new way to do it. It’s about getting outs and balls put in play.”
Up next was new Triple-A batting coach Scott Brosius. To this day it still hits me funny when I see the former Yankee World Series MVP on the field in a Mariners uniform. Hey, that’s Scott Brosius!
After talking to him, it makes sense. While Brosius has absolutely no connection to general manager Jerry Dipoto or the new staff – and he tells the surprising story of how he got the job – he is a Northwest native and is happy to be home. He has taken a different path back to professional ball, but he sounds like a great fit for the organization.
Taijuan Walker followed Brosius and gave us an update on his progression through the spring. What strikes me about Walker is that for all the talk of his someday breakout season, it seems to me he is out to grab it, not wait for it to happen. He’s put in a lot of work both on and off the field to try and make that season come sooner rather than later. As big as the strides are that he took last year, it’s possible we could see bigger this year.
New catcher Steve Clevenger was up next and he gave a rundown on Hisashi Iwakuma’s performance against the Dodgers and also told us what he has seen from a number of the relievers. We learn a little bit about his style handling the pitchers and also his development as a catcher, which started very late as he was drafted as a shortstop.
Mike Montgomery joined us next, and in addition to talking about the challenges of making the transition to the bullpen, he also gave us the latest from the morning meetings and pool tournament.
Last but far from least, Aaron Goldsmith shared a terrific interview he had recently with Nelson Cruz. If you haven’t heard the story of how Cruz was brought into professional baseball, you might be surprised.
Next Monday will be our last edition of “The Cactus League Report” before the regular season begins.