Work continues for Taijuan Walker after small step in right direction
OAKLAND – Taijuan Walker’s first outing after the disaster against Anaheim has been deemed a success. All parties acknowledge it was just one bad outing, and while the road to getting Walker on track once and for all with his mechanics could be a long one, but the first hurdle has been cleared.
“There’s a lot of good signs,” manager Scott Servais said Friday afternoon. “After a really rocky start he hung with it for the most part. We’ve still got work to do but nice for him to come out of there with some positive feeling. The arrow is pointing up, which is a good thing.”
Chris Iannetta, who was briefed on the mechanical changes that the Mariners wanted to see from Walker, was entrusted with catching him in Thursday’s win over Texas and formulating the game plan so he could concentrate more on his mechanics. When Walker opened the game throwing five straight balls and walking the first two hitters, Iannetta saw that he wasn’t fully committed to the new mechanics and trotted out to the mound to encourage him to stick with it.
“Obviously he made a lot of adjustments between starts and when you do that, things don’t feel comfortable,” he said. “You have to trust the process. That’s hard to do. … I went out to the mound and said ‘OK, let’s trust what we are doing. Do what Mel (Stottlemyre) said. Once you get to the part of no return and you are coming down the hill, just come down there with conviction and trust it will be where you want it to be.’ After that he was great.”
Walker was appreciative of the support that he got from Iannetta, particularly in the 10-pitch battle he had against his final batter of the day, Mitch Moreland.
“Against Moreland, he really didn’t put the signs down, he just kept going like this (signaling bring it). I trusted it and the last pitch was a changeup and he was just go. And it worked,” Walker said.
Walker was able to stick with the new mechanics for the most part. Not an easy thing for any pitcher to do, let alone in a game that matters against one of the better hitting teams in the league. While he had initial success, Walker understands there is still plenty of work to be done.
“It’s still a little uncomfortable,” he admitted. “It’s still really different. I’m still working on staying back and getting my legs into it. Some of that I have tried before but I never stuck with it. The challenge is going to be just keep working with it, trusting it, trusting Mel, trusting the process.”
The process will not end when the season ends. Stottlemyre has mapped out an offseason plan for Walker and will travel to Seattle during the fall to work with him. The mechanics need to be committed to muscle memory and that takes time. There are many steps that need to be followed if Walker is to turn things around and find the consistency that has been lacking in his career. The important first step, however, has been taken, and Thursday felt like a new beginning for Walker.
“It’s just a small step but it is a small step in the right direction,” he said. “It’s not going to be perfect right away but I just have to tell myself to stick with it.”