Mariners’ Taijuan Walker hopes for improvement through breaking ball

Feb 12, 2016, 9:30 AM | Updated: 9:32 am
After a 2-6 start to the 2015 season, Taijuan Walker finished the season with an 11-8 record. (AP)...
After a 2-6 start to the 2015 season, Taijuan Walker finished the season with an 11-8 record. (AP)
(AP)
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Early in the 2015 season, Taijuan Walker looked every bit of an overwhelmed 22-year-old starter playing his first full MLB season. Then “something clicked.”

After starting the season 2-6 with a 5.80 ERA through June 3, he rattled off five consecutive wins, finishing the season with an 11-8 record and a respectable 4.56 ERA.

Related: Are the Mariners a playoff team if their bullpen improves?

“I wasn’t walking people, that was the biggest thing,” he told 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Bob, Groz and Tom.”

Despite making his last start in mid-September, Walker’s workload of 169.2 innings in 2015 was 28.1 more innings than his previous professional high. Still, he said he could have pitched more.

“I felt great physically,” he said. “Honestly, I felt like I could have made another six or seven starts if I needed to, but I understand what it is, trying to protect pitchers. Being young still, too. But I will be fresh and ready to go for this season.”

Walker said his breaking ball is the pitch that needs the most improvement and is what he’s been working on this offseason.

“My breaking ball and then my straight change-up,” he said. “Just something to keep the hitters off balance and kind of a speed thing. I felt like all my pitches last year were pretty hard and I didn’t throw my breaking ball a lot so I wanted to work on that this offseason.”

Here are a few more highlights from the conversation:

On working with new catcher Chris Iannetta: “That’s what we have spring training for. We’ll get comfortable with each other and get to know each other.”

On his toughest out last season, Tigers oufielder J.D. Martinez:: “He was a tough out for me, definitely. But they’re all really tough outs. You have to grind every pitch against these guys. Everyone’s a big leaguer and they’re there for a reason.”

On having to speak with the media after a bad outing: “It’s tough, especially after a tough loss in a big game. But you just have to carry yourself as a professional athlete.”

The best movie he’s seen recently: “Straight Outta Compton.”

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Mariners’ Taijuan Walker hopes for improvement through breaking ball