PEORIA, Ariz. – If there was any doubt about Taijuan Walker’s excitement to throw in a game for the first time this spring, he let the world – specifically his 16,000 Twitter followers — know just how he felt early Saturday morning, tweeting:
“Super pumped!! #herewego”
The Mariners were “super pumped” when Walker and fellow pitcher Stephen Pryor each worked an inning in a minor-league game against the Padres and had no issues.
Walker started the game against the Padres’ Class AAA squad, and pitched one eventful inning. He gave up a leadoff double down the line, sawed off a hitter with an inside fastball for a weak line out to third, got a ground ball to shortstop for an out, wild pitched a run in from third, gave up a run-scoring triple and then got a fly out.
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He threw nothing but fastballs and changeups in the inning. His fastball ranged from 93-96 mph. His change-up was in the mid-80s and showed decent movement.
“I was pumped,” he said. “I was trying not to be. I felt like I wasn’t overthrowing or trying to throw too hard.”
Walker threw an additional 15 pitches in the bullpen to reach his pitch count.
“They just wanted me to get some extra pitches without facing hitters,” he said. “When you are facing hitters, you get amped up a little bit. They wanted it nice and easy for the last 15.”
Walker wasn’t pinpoint with his command, but he felt like it was decent considering it was his first game action of the spring.
“This one was almost like a tester game to see how it felt,” he said. “All that other stuff will come. I felt like my fastball location was pretty good. It’s not where I want it, but I’m happy with it.”
But it’s the lack of pain or stiffness in his shoulder that is the best result of the outing.
“I just walk away happy because my arm feels good,” he said.
Pryor followed Walker and worked a 1-2-3 inning, getting a strikeout looking and a pair of ground balls to third. His fastball was right around 91-93 mph, and he threw his slider and change-up.
Like Walker, he was eager to pitch in the game.
“I was excited,” he said. “This is the first time my arm has felt right since I got hurt last year in April. It’s something to build off of. I feel back to normal.”
Pryor’s command of the slider and change-up wasn’t sharp. But there wasn’t really an expectation for them to be, considering the time off.
“They weren’t good, but they were there,” he said.
The slider showed solid movement and sat around 85 mph.
“For me that’s the pitch I’m going to get outs with,” he said. “That’s the pitch I can throw for a ground ball or a pop-up. That’s the pitch I’ve got to have for most of my outings.”
But considering the time off and the seriousness of the surgery, Pryor knows he’s still got some things to take care of before he pitches in a major-league game.
“I feel like I’ve still got some work to do, finishing touches and build up some arm strength a little more,” he said. “I’m not quite where I want to be.”
The improved arm strength will help with his velocity. A fastball at 91-93 mph is down for Pryor. He normally sits around 94-96 and touches 98. But he isn’t concerned.
“I’m not worried about it at this point. I’m feeling good,” he said. “I feel like I can pound the zone at this point. It’s getting the adrenaline and everything working together.”
Rockies 4, M’s 3
Roenis Elias won’t bow out of the race for the rotation, and Brad Miller won’t stop hitting.
Elias, who is still fighting to win one of the remaining spots in the rotation, turned in yet another promising outing on Saturday at Salt River Field. The 25-year-old lefty pitched 51
3 innings, giving up two runs on four hits with two walks and four strikeouts. Miller went 2 for 4 with a pair of doubles, a RBI and a run scored. He is hitting .463 (19 for 41) this spring.
Teammate Robinson Cano went 0 for 4. The Mariners also got a big offensive lift from Justin Smoak, who hit a homer and singled off of Rockies starter Brett Anderson.
A’s 6, Mariners 5
It wasn’t the type of outing Scott Baker wanted with the end of spring training near. The veteran right-hander struggled against the A’s, going just four innings and giving up six runs on seven hits with six walks and no strikeouts. Stephen Vogt hit a pair of homers off Baker.
Baker is competing with Elias and Randy Wolf for a spot in the rotation, and the latest outing isn’t helping his cause. Baker has been shaky his last two outings, giving up 11 runs in seven innings pitched.
The Mariners got big days at the plate from Logan Morrison and Stefen Romero. Morrison blasted a two-run homer and also had an RBI single, while Romero went 3 for 5 with a double and RBI.
Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373
On Twitter: @RyanDivish