Even Mother Nature wanted to see Taijuan Walker make his Triple-A debut.
On a night filled with intermittent rain, the skies stayed clear enough for the Seattle Mariners’ top pitching prospect to pitch his first game for the Tacoma Rainiers without delay or soggy discomfort.
And in that brief, relatively precipitation-free period, Walker looked more than comfortable on the Cheney Stadium mound, delivering an outstanding performance against the Fresno Grizzlies in the Rainiers’ 1-0 win Tuesday night.
The hard-throwing right-hander pitched six shutout innings, giving up three hits with two walks and four strikeouts. He threw 87 pitches, 56 of them for strikes. And of the 23 batters he faced, he threw 16 first-pitch strikes.
He certainly didn’t look like a 20-year-old kid pitching against players four to eight years older than him.
Walker struck out the first batter — Gary Brown, the San Francisco Giants’ 2010 first-round pick – on three consecutive fastballs.
Kensuke Tanaka then ripped a hard ground ball between Walker’s legs and into center field on a 2-2 fastball. But Walker coolly dispatched the next two hitters with a flyout and a groundout.
Walker showed the ability to be economical, needing just 11 pitches to make it through the second inning.
In the sixth, he gave up a two-out walk followed by a single to Brett Pill, but he calmly got Roger Kieschnick to bounce into a fielder’s choice.
Walker’s fastball, which touched 97 mph and sat right around 93-95 mph, drew oohs and ahhs from the announced crowd of 2,673. But for the Mariners, it was the use and success of his secondary pitches that loom as more important in his development.
Walker threw a cut fastball that ranged from 89-93 mph. It had good late movement.
The curveball that Walker struggled to command all spring and early in the season with Double-A Jackson was solid. It had a tight spin. Of the 13 curveballs Walker threw, eight were for strikes.
Walker showed solid composure as well.
In the third inning with two outs, he issued his first walk. However, he threw three consecutive fastballs on the outside corner that were called balls by plate umpire Spencer Flynn. Walker clearly was miffed, but he walked around the mound, gathered himself and got the next hitter to fly out.Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish