Walker aims to 'move on' after season debut goes south
Mariners righty allows 9 runs on 9 hits vs. A's
OAKLAND -- This wasn't what Taijuan Walker imagined in his long-awaited debut as part of the Mariners regular rotation. After pitching small parts of the past two seasons in Seattle, the 22-year-old grabbed a spot among the starting five with a sensational spring -- only to see his initial outing go south in a hurry in Friday's 12-0 loss to the A's.
The young right-hander got knocked out after 3 1/3 innings, allowing nine hits and nine runs in short order to the rebuilt A's lineup as the Mariners fell to 1-3 and started their first road trip off with a stubbed toe at the Coliseum.
"It's definitely not the results I wanted for the first start," Walker said. "But I'll just put this one behind me and move on."
Both Walker and manager Lloyd McClendon insisted the youngster threw better than the numbers indicated. He walked only two batters -- and one was intentional -- so it wasn't a wildly ineffective outing. Instead it was a game where the A's continually got their bats on Walker's offerings and ran his pitch count up early.
"Actually I thought he made great pitches. It was just their night," McClendon said. "I thought he threw some good changeups, some good breaking balls. Early on everything was falling in for them. And you have to give them credit. They came out attacking and did a nice job."
Walker needed 37 pitches to get through a rugged first frame in which he allowed three runs on four hits. That was one more run than he'd surrendered in 27 innings in Cactus League action this spring, when he grabbed the No. 4 spot in the rotation in impressive fashion.
Walker never allowed more than two runs in his last four starts last season and the most he'd ever given up in his first eight career starts was four runs in a five-inning stint against the Royals late in 2013.
This certainly wasn't the Walker the Mariners hoped to see -- or had previously seen -- as he's regarded as one of the up-and-coming young right-handers in baseball. But the A's kept pouring it on, with a two-run homer by Mark Canha in the second on a 2-0 fastball that Walker left in the middle of the plate and then four more runs in the fourth -- three coming after reliever Tom Wilhelmsen entered with the bases loaded and couldn't stop the bleeding in what turned into a six-run frame that gave Oakland an 11-0 lead.
"Obviously you want to miss some bats," Walker said. "But some of the balls they hit I thought were good pitches. They had some broken-bat hits that found holes and stuff. I didn't think it was that bad. Obviously the results weren't good, but everything felt good."
Six-time All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano was among those telling Walker to keep his head up after the game.
"This is baseball. Who said everything is going to be easy in this game?" Cano said. "Even the best pitchers in the game go through rough starts. Bad games, bad days. Forget about it and get ready for the next start."
Which was exactly the point McClendon stressed as well. The Mariners are going to need Walker for the long haul and this was only the first step in a long season.
"If he pitches long enough in this league, that's going to happen again," McClendon said. "That's baseball. We were on the receiving end. We'll give a few of those this year as well."