PHOENIX -- It was the night before Thanksgiving and Taijuan Walker was hanging out with friends and family when his agent called to tell him he had just been traded from the Mariners to the D-backs as part of a five-player deal.
"At first I didn't believe him," Walker said. "Then [Mariners general manager Jerry] Dipoto called and we talked. At first it was a shock, coming up with the Mariners, getting drafted by the Mariners, the goal is to try to be with one team. But I'm super excited to be with the Diamondbacks. They have such a young core of players, and I'm excited to be a part of it."
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And the D-backs are excited to have a pitcher they believe is on the verge of fulfilling the potential that so many have seen in him since he was first drafted in the first round in 2010.
For his part, Walker is looking forward to pitching without pain in 2017, something he was not able to do last year when he went 8-11 with a 4.22 ERA in 25 starts.
In October, Walker underwent surgery on his right ankle to remove bone spurs, which caused pain every time he tried to push off the rubber during his delivery.
"It just happened early in the year," Walker said of when the pain began. "I guess I had an extra bone in my foot and I guess that broke off and it was rubbing against my Achilles tendon, and every time I pushed off I would be in pain -- and even walking, too. I had surgery on that right after the season, and it turns out I had 10 bone spurs in my foot that they took out."
Since he was not able to push off with his right foot, Walker got away from using his legs during his delivery and instead was relying more on his upper body and arm, which affected his command and velocity.
One of the knocks on Walker is the amount of fly balls he allows and how often they turn into home runs. Over the past two seasons he has given up 52 homers, and he is hoping to change that by adding to his repertoire, which includes a mid-90s fastball and a curve along with a work-in-progress slider.
"I definitely want to add a sinker or two-seam and [improve my] slider, just so I can get more ground balls," Walker said. "I gave up a lot of home runs the last couple of years and I'm not really too happy with that. I definitely want to try to keep the ball on the ground more and get more ground-ball outs."
Despite the pain in his ankle, Walker was able to work on his mechanics a bit toward the end of the season, allowing him to hide the ball a little more. In his final four starts, which included an 11-strikeout shutout against the Angels, he had a 2.45 ERA.
"I thought my stuff was better, the ball was coming out a little later," Walker said. "Hitters weren't really on it as good as they were."