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Walker strong in second crack at Suns
Mariners prospect strikes out seven in third straight victory
05/02/2013 2:05 AM ET
Taijuan Walker is 3-2 with a 1.54 ERA in six starts for Jackson this year.
Taijuan Walker is 3-2 with a 1.54 ERA in six starts for Jackson this year. (John Shadrick)

Taijuan Walker first faced Double-A Jacksonville on Opening Day, April 4. The Suns got the better of him that night, tagging him for four runs, including two homers, in five innings.

They matched up again on Wednesday and things were markedly different this time.

Walker allowed one run on three hits and two walks over six innings, striking out seven, to lead Jackson to a 9-1 victory at Generals Park.

"Last night I went through, watched the game footage from when I pitched against them the first series. I looked at their swings, saw what pitches I threw, what pitches they hit," Walker said. "They really battled me tonight. I think it was the fifth inning, I made some good pitches and they just kept fouling it off. That whole lineup is really good, so it felt pretty good out there [to beat them]."

One of the keys this time out, the Mariners' top prospect said, was limiting walks. In that season-opening start, he issued four; in fact, he's walked four batters in four of his six outings.

Over 35 innings, the 20-year-old right-hander has recorded 39 strikeouts and 20 walks. But he boasts a 1.54 ERA that ranks seventh in the Southern League.

"Everything else is there, so today I really wanted to focus on the walks," he said. "Two walks, I'm not happy with, but pleased it's not three or four. I'm still going to focus on limiting the walks to zero or one, but I was pleased with how I pitched tonight.

"I think it just comes down to the 1-1 counts. I have to go after them in 1-1 counts. And if I get 0-2, I have to put them away instead of trying to fool them, little stuff like that."

The 43rd overall selection in the 2010 Draft out of Yucaipa (Calif.) High School, Walker (3-2) vaulted up prospect lists during his first full season in 2011, when he posted a 2.89 ERA and 113 strikeouts over 96 2/3 innings for Class A Clinton. He's currently MLB.com's No. 5 overall prospect.

Walker is repeating the Southern League after spending all of last season with the Generals. As a 19-year-old in Double-A, he went 7-10 with a 4.69 ERA, fanning 118 and walking 50 in 126 2/3 innings.

Walker said he thinks that, as long as he cuts down on the free passes, he'll continue to find success during his second go-round in Jackson.

"I'm pretty happy with my season so far, I made a good adjustment on my curveball, my cutter has really been working and my changeup has been pretty good so far," he said. "The only thing I'm not happy with is the walks, but I feel as the season goes on they'll go down. It's still early -- I'm not using that as an excuse, I just think as the season goes, the walks will go down. That's the only thing I'm unhappy with so far."

Abraham Almonte, fresh off hitting for the cycle over the weekend, went 4-for-5 with a double and two runs scored out of the leadoff spot for the Generals. James Jones was 4-for-4 with three doubles and three RBIs.

Jonathan Raymond is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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