PHOENIX -- There was no way the D-backs or Christian Walker could have predicted in Spring Training the year the first baseman was going to have.
The focus at first base was on Jake Lamb making the transition from third base to take the spot occupied for so many years by Paul Goldschmidt.
Walker was out of Minor League options, and, at 28 years old on Opening Day, he had yet to get a real chance at playing time in the big leagues. The talk was that maybe he would get some starts against left-handers or when Lamb got a day off.
But when the season started, Walker outplayed Lamb, who then got hurt. Now, 599 plate appearances later, Walker is still hitting. His two homers, including a grand slam, on Saturday night led the D-backs past the Padres, 6-5, at Chase Field.
The homers gave him 29 for the year to go along with a slash line of .259/.349/.476. Did he envision this type of year in March?
“No,” Walker said.” I tried not to label this year, put too many expectations on it because of all the unknowns, but I knew that there was a good group of guys here that I was really looking forward to playing with and was hoping that it was going to be this clubhouse and this team.
“Just given where I’m at in my career, there’s a lot of unpredictability. I’m just really happy and grateful. Definitely don’t take it for granted, for sure.”
How about manager Torey Lovullo -- did he think Walker was going to have this kind of season?
“To be totally honest, no,” Lovullo said. “We didn’t know what type of year he was going to have, the amount of at-bats. We had talked mostly about Jake Lamb all Spring Training long and [Walker was] just lying in the weeds waiting for his opportunity. It’s a great story. It’s a great player development story. It’s a story of perseverance and waiting for your chance and making the most of it, and he has done a tremendous job of earning every single special moment this year.”
Lovullo, in fact, shared with Walker recently in their end-of-the-season meeting that he could never have forecast it. Lovullo praised Walker for his persistence and determination.
The season wasn’t all a magic carpet ride for Walker, however.
“Relax,” they told him. “You’re the first baseman. You’re going to play. We want you out there.”
The words were like a lifeline for Walker.
“Regardless of whether it was 100 percent true or not, it was exactly what I needed to buy into myself,” Walker said.