Mariners notebook: Taijuan Walker ‘figuring it out,’ according to former MLB pitcher

Apr 26, 2016, 7:29 PM | Updated: May 4, 2016, 6:50 am

Former big-league pitcher and current Astros broadcaster Steve Sparks joined the roundtable on the pregame show before the Mariners game against Houston Tuesday night and shared some interesting observations on two starting pitchers.

Sparks has seen plenty of Taijuan Walker as he has made nine career starts against the Astros, but he saw something different Monday night.

“I don’t think I saw him try to overthrow one baseball. It looked like he was playing catch,” Sparks said. “When you do that, you allow your arm to catch up. When you look like you are playing catch and you look up at the scoreboard and see 96-97 mph, you know a guy is figuring it out. Because when you don’t overthrow, then you can really command your fastball and that’s what we saw yesterday.”

Walker did look effortless and threw his fastball for strikes – 67 percent of them, to be exact, with 12 of them swing-and-miss. For a second straight start he eclipsed his career high in pitches, hitting 118 and looking like he still had plenty left in the tank. It was an impressive performance.

The guy on the hill for the Astros on Tuesday night, reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, is no stranger to impressive performances. Sparks has seen them all and told the roundtable that it was tough to know what to expect from him start to start.

“He’s been a little different this year. In his last start in spring training he went seven innings, one hit and no runs,” Sparks said. “He did it throwing on the inner half of the plate the entire time with the fastball and cutters. He just wanted to prove a point that he could do something a little different. He’s a different kind of guy in that he likes to stay ahead of the scouting reports, he wants to outsmart the system. I think he realizes he probably was ahead of himself trying to make those drastic adjustments when he didn’t need to.”

Keuchel is coming off a performance in which he gave up six runs, so it will be interesting to see how he bounces back. Mariners manager Scott Servais is going with a lineup that is a bit different against the tough lefty.

Lineup!

Norichika Aoki, CF
Ketel Marte, SS
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nelson Cruz, RF
Franklin Gutierrez, LF
Kyle Seager, 3B
Chris Iannetta, C
Dae-Ho Lee, 1B
Seth Smith, DH

Nathan Karns, RHP

Notes

• Seth Smith, sitting on 99 career home runs, is 4 for 12 against Keuchel with two home runs.

• This is the latest in a season that the Mariners have been in first place in the AL West since May 5, 2009.

• The Mariners’ bullpen has had a nice rest of late. The starters have gone at least seven innings in four straight games.

Date Starting Pitcher
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