Opening Day always conjures excitement for all involved with the game of baseball, but the first one holds an even more special place in the heart. Monday brought the first Opening Day for Mariners right-handed pitcher Taijuan Walker among many across the league, as expected he was overwhelmed with anticipation.
Walker, 22, expected to have this career moment take place last year, but a sore shoulder hampered his spring training leaving him off the active roster to start the season. He’s here now, his excitement amped after a sporadic night of sleep.
“I’m excited,” Walker said. “It means a lot. I was thinking about it, I’m glad we have a day game so I don’t have to sit around all day waiting for this. I wanted it to be here already.”
What is he looking forward to most?
“Getting to run on the red carpet and everything, Felix is pitching, King’s Court (and) a sold-out crowd . . . You really can’t beat that,” Walker added.
For Walker, the day comes as a reward for all the hard work he put in really since August leading to his impressive spring training in which he allowed one earned run in 25 innings. The performance led to Walker beating out Roenis Elias and Erasmo Ramirez for the fifth and final rotation spot. Winning the job was one thing, holding onto it over the course of a 162-game regular season is quite another. Walker knows he has to maintain the same focus, the same drive moving forward.
“Keep everything the same,” Walker said. “I don’t want to change anything. I know that I have made it. Probably work a little harder now to try and take that extra step.
“I think if I get into trouble, it’s because I’m trying to do too much. I’d rather keep everything the same way I did in the spring.”
And what exactly does that mean for Walker?
“Mechanics, mind set and then how I approach hitters. I can’t try to get the strikeout every time. I’ve just got to go out and attack hitters like I’ve been doing in spring training,” said Walker.
If he does that, he’s sure to see many more Opening Days.
Lineup vs Jared Weaver:
1. Austin Jackson cf
2. Seth Smith rf
3. Robinson Cano 2b
4. Nelson Cruz dh
5. Kyle Seager 3b
6. Logan Morrison 1b
7. Mike Zunino c
8. Dustin Ackley lf
9. Brad Miller ss