In his final Cactus League outing of the spring, Taijuan Walker re-introduced a slider into his repertoire while scrapping his cut fastball on the advice of pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre. Walker had varied success in the Mariners' 4-1 loss to the Indians. A misplaced slider to Yan Gomes resulted in a two-run homer.
Indians 4, Mariners 1 at Goodyear Ballpark
Taijuan Walker made his last start of the Cactus League, pitching five innings, giving up three runs on six hits with two walks and seven strikeouts. It was a much better start than his previous outing when he gave up six runs on nine hits in 3 2/3 innings pitched.
Realistically, Walker was one hanging slider away from a very solid outing.
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Yes, Walker made the decision to scrap his cut fastball and start throwing a slider a few days ago on the advice of pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre.
“He thinks it could be a good power pitch for me because of the way I throw my fastball,” Walker said. “I’m aggressive out in front with it and my changeup too. He feels that if I stay the same with a slider it could be a really good pitch for me.”
The cut fastball wasn’t an exceptional pitch for Walker.
“The cutter would move like this much,” Walker said holding his thumb and index finger about five inches apart. “It works to a lefty. But I need to something to use against a righty that I can get a swing and miss or a groundball with.”
Walker didn’t get either optimal result when he threw the hanging slider to Yan Gomes with a runner on base in the third inning. Gomes crushed it over the wall in left field.
“I threw a couple good ones,” he said. “I got one a swing and miss with it and a couple foul offs. It was just that one I hung on 0-0 that hurt. Everything else felt pretty good.”
If it was a regular season game, Walker might have gone a different route.
“I could have went changeup because it felt really good today,” he said. “If I go changeup 0-0, I probably get a ground ball or he swings right over the top of it. “
But being a Cactus League game, it gave him a chance to experiment with the pitch without repercussions.
“It’s something that probably evolves as the season goes on,” manager Scott Servais said. “But the curveball and changeup are his best secondary pitches.”
While it’s interesting that he’s making this change, it’s unlikely that Walker will use it often when he starts the home opener on April 8 against the A’s.
“I probably wouldn’t throw it a lot early in the season,” he said. “I’m still working on it. It’s all about getting that hand speed out in front and being aggressive with it. I trying to get the good side-to-side motion with some depth.”
With the long layoff till the home opener, Walker will pitch a simulated game on Sunday in Texas during the Mariners’ workout to stay sharp.
*** Left-hander Mike Montgomery pitched a 1-2-3 inning of relief. He’ll likely pitch again on Wednesday to get back-to-back outings as he continues his conversion to relieving.
*** Right-hander Mayckol Guaipe continues pitch well, working a 1-2-3 inning with a strikeout
*** Daniel Robertson drove in the Mariners’ only run with a single up the middle in the top of the ninth.
Player of the game
Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin was outstanding. The right-hander pitched six shutout innings, giving up just three hits with no walks and 10 strikeouts. Tomlin, who tossed a complete game one-hitter against the Mariners in 2014, struck out Nelson Cruz three times and Franklin Gutierrez and Steve Clevenger twice each.
“He really pitched well. He moves the ball. He cuts it. He really had our right-handed hitters off balance. He did a good job tonight.” … Servais on Tomlin
The Mariners return to Peoria Stadium on Wednesday to face their complex-mates – the San Diego Padres. Right-hander Felix Hernandez will make his final Cactus League start of the spring. He’s only expected to pitch two or three innings. The Padres will go with right-hander Tyson Ross. First pitch is set an hour earlier at 12:10 p.m. The game will be televised on Root Sports and broadcast live on ESPN 710.