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D-backs win sixth straight, Walker struggles

MLB.com

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- After two strong spring starts, Taijuan Walker had a bit of a setback Saturday, giving up three runs on three hits and two walks, all in the second of his two innings pitched in a 10-3 win over the Royals -- the D-backs sixth Cactus League win in a row.

"I was trying to throw strikes with my fastball," Walker said. "That's kind of been my goal all spring -- get ahead with the fastball and throw strikes, and I wasn't doing that today."

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- After two strong spring starts, Taijuan Walker had a bit of a setback Saturday, giving up three runs on three hits and two walks, all in the second of his two innings pitched in a 10-3 win over the Royals -- the D-backs sixth Cactus League win in a row.

"I was trying to throw strikes with my fastball," Walker said. "That's kind of been my goal all spring -- get ahead with the fastball and throw strikes, and I wasn't doing that today."

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Walker had a six-pitch first frame, inducing three fly balls to right, then needed 35 pitches to get through the second, when the Royals put their only runs of the game on the board and ended his afternoon early. He threw another 14 pitches in the bullpen to approach his 60-pitch target and keep him on pace to build up his pitch count over the next few starts.

"I threw way too many pitches in that second inning," Walker said. "If it was the regular season I'd go back out there, but it's Spring Training. I'm still conditioning my arm, and that was just was too many pitches for me there. I felt better in the bullpen."

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Albert Suarez pitched two strong innings, allowing just one hit while striking out two, and Matt Koch added two innings of one-hit ball as well.

"The two guys in back of [Walker] did a really nice job -- they were attacking the zone," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. "Everybody did a good job the entire day off the mound, with the exception of that second inning."

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The 10-run explosion was a healthy sign for the Arizona offense -- even given the inclination to downplay Cactus League results.

"We had a number of guys that had multiple hits," Lovullo said. "David Peralta's first at-bat, he stays in the middle of the diamond. I'm sure the exit velocity was over 100 mph. Those are the things that we talk about. We want our players to be balanced, level, through the ball, and see where that lands us after nine hitters."

Peralta was 3-for-4, and joined Ketel Marte (3-for-3) and Jeff Mathis (2-for-2) among those who had multiple hits.

Sherf's up

Bullpen candidate Jimmie Sherfy faced live hitters Saturday, moving along in a progression to start working his way into Cactus League games and compete head-on for one of a couple spots in the D-backs' bullpen. He threw 20 pitches, and Lovullo was happy with what he saw.

"All pitches looked great," Lovullo said. "I didn't get any readings on his [velocity]. He said he felt great. Slider was a little bit loose, which was to be expected, but I thought the fastball-changeup was very, very good. We're excited to see how it went, how it ended."

Sherfy had a solid call up in 2017, pitching in 11 games and not allowing an earned run in 10.2 innings of work. He appeared in two postseason games, throwing one inning and giving up four runs on five hits for a 36.00 October ERA.

"As we're getting to know him and understand his makeup, we know that he wants the ball and he's going to take it when we ask him to," Lovullo said of the decision to add Sherfy to the postseason roster. "I think last year, because of what he had done leading up to that series, we were willing to overlook a couple things. I thought he threw the ball OK [in the playoffs]. It wasn't his best stuff."

Video: Jimmie Sherfy on making his Major League debut

Sherfy wasn't alone in struggling against the Dodgers last October, as Walker posted a similar line, starting one game and lasting only an inning, giving up four runs on four hits and two walks (one intentional) for a 36.00 ERA.

"I just kind of put it away," Walker said Saturday. "It happened and I moved on, got better in the offseason."

Lovullo has consistently emphasized the importance of learning from those sorts of moments, and his players bought in, rejecting the alternative temptation to wallow in despair throughout the winter without taking anything valuable out of the experience.

"Everybody's trying to look for every angle possible to become a complete player," Lovullo said. "I feel like we're going to a better team because of that series.

"We've learned a lot about our players."

Up next

The D-backs travel to Camelback Ranch on Sunday, sending Patrick Corbin to the mound for a 1:05 p.m. MST tilt against the White Sox. Listen to the game live on Gameday Audio.

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Taijuan Walker