A closer look at Taijuan Walker’s remarkable turnaround with Mariners
ANAHEIM, Calif. – Ten days after hitting rock bottom on the mound, Taijuan Walker flirted with a perfect game, matching his career high with 11 strikeouts and throwing his first complete-game shutout. The performance followed a commitment to a major change in mechanics and daily intensive workouts with pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr., who may have been the most thrilled by what he saw from Walker Tuesday night.
“He gave me chill bumps tonight,” Stottlemyre Jr. said following the Mariners’ 8-0 win over the Angels. “To watch him go through this little transformation, and to embrace the changes we thought he needed to make, man, I’m just so happy for him.”
Walker told Stottlemyre Jr. on Saturday that he thought he had nailed down the changes. Walker was inconsistent in his previous start and it was apparent at times that he was searching for a comfort level or repeatability with his new mechanics. There was no hesitation Tuesday night.
“Me and Mel have been putting in a lot of work, getting out there early, just really trying to get it down,” Walker said after the game. “Three weeks left in the season, it is kind of weird to change mechanics, but we have been out there trying to hammer it and it was really good to have some success today.”
The new mechanics led not only to strikes but better velocity on his fastball and secondary pitches, which were so sharp that catcher Mike Zunino called for the curveball 28 times, the most Walker has ever thrown in a game. When all was said and done, Walker threw a total of 20 pitches that resulted in swings and misses.
“His curveball is so sharp now he’s putting guys away with it now,” Zunino said. “The tilt, the spin is unbelievable. The changeup was phenomenal today as well.”
Walker’s turnaround was stunning. Stottlemyre Jr. talked about the changes and why they had to be made during his on-field interview, which can be heard here. Stottlemyre Jr. also discussed what we have seen from the rest of the Mariners’ rotation, which has allowed just seven earned runs in as many games.