Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

Walker tweaks delivery, flirts with perfection

MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

ANAHEIM -- For Taijuan Walker, a revamped delivery started to feel natural about three days before Tuesday night's start. And that was bad timing for the Angels, who managed just three hits in Walker's first career shutout, an 8-0 Mariners victory at Angel Stadium.

This was the good Walker, an overpowering 6-foot-4, 235-pound presence on the mound, living up to the hype and hoopla that have surrounded him much of his early days in pro baseball.

View Full Game Coverage

ANAHEIM -- For Taijuan Walker, a revamped delivery started to feel natural about three days before Tuesday night's start. And that was bad timing for the Angels, who managed just three hits in Walker's first career shutout, an 8-0 Mariners victory at Angel Stadium.

This was the good Walker, an overpowering 6-foot-4, 235-pound presence on the mound, living up to the hype and hoopla that have surrounded him much of his early days in pro baseball.

View Full Game Coverage

But it had only been 10 days since the bad Walker, a frustrated 24-year-old who gave up three home runs and six runs in just two-thirds of an inning before getting bounced by the same Angels at Safeco Field.

After that start, Walker buried his head in his hands in the dugout, felt embarrassed by his performance and went and told pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. that he was ready to do whatever it took to get better. And when Stottlemyre told him he needed to finally agree to change his mechanics, use more of a twist in his delivery and get more drive from his legs, the youngster agreed.

It took one semi-awkward start against the Rangers, when Walker got the win while allowing seven hits and three runs in five innings, to work out the kinks. But on Tuesday, he looked like a different pitcher, his velocity kicking up 3-4 mph to 95-96 with his fastball, while his breaking pitches suddenly wore more bite.

Video: SEA@LAA: Walker discusses his three-hit shutout

"I told Mel about three days ago when we went out to play catch that, 'It feels good, I think I've got it,'" Walker said. "I've been watching a lot of video of Jake Arrieta and Roger Clemens, those kind of guys, just to see how they did it. I came in the next day and it felt really good, and I just kept hammering it."

Walker had a perfect game going until Kaleb Cowart reached on a throwing error by shortstop Ketel Marte with two out in the sixth, and Walker didn't give up a hit until Kole Calhoun's leadoff single in the seventh.

"My legs were getting heavy, my stomach was getting tingly a little bit and I felt like the game was so long, just taking forever," Walker said. "Our offense was getting on base every single inning and going out there and getting hits. It felt like it was getting longer and longer.

"But right after I gave up the hit, I felt really good. They kept asking me, 'How are you feeling?' I think they wanted to take me out in the eighth, but I told 'em, 'Hey, I'm good. I'm good.'"

He finished with three hits allowed, no walks, 11 strikeouts and a large feeling of satisfaction.

"When you put it all together and everybody gets on the same page, great things can happen," said manager Scott Servais, whose club won its seventh straight and sits 2 1/2 games back in the American League Wild Card race. "And tonight was really fun to watch. He executed all his pitches and was in total command of his game. He looked like a guy out there that had fear of no one. Respects everyone, but had fear of no one. It was great to see."

Three of his strikeouts came against Mike Trout, who was 9-for-11 with three home runs off Walker coming into the game.

"Trout has great numbers against him. Not good, great numbers," Servais said. "Taijuan knows it. Everybody knows it. But he went in with a plan and executed it. The fastball command, locating it down and away, making some pitches in early. And outstanding offspeed stuff, the best we have seen by far."

And, yes, Trout took notice.

"He was painting the outside corner and locating his offspeed," said the Angels' star. "When he wanted to bounce his curveball he could bounce it. We definitely saw more offspeed pitches tonight than usual. That's something we've just got to go out there and battle. He was battling against us. It was just one of those nights that he was locating everything."

Now the challenge, of course, will be repeating the effort. Walker has been good before. He threw a one-hitter against the Twins in 2015, and this was his third complete game. But after a hot April this year, Walker struggled and even with two wins in a row, he's still just 6-10 with a 4.28 ERA on the season, a far cry from where he'd hoped to be this year.

"It took that outing he had 10-11 days ago when he hit bottom to realize that and be open," Servais said. "It's one thing as coaches when you want to help kids or players out, but it's another when they have that kind of talent and they totally buy in and it comes together. I hope it continues. We really saw something special tonight from Taijuan Walker and we really need it the rest of the way."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast.

Seattle Mariners, Taijuan Walker