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The main news around Peoria today was that Taijuan Walker and Felix Hernandez threw their first bullpen sessions of the spring. They looked like themselves – talented
There were more than a few interested spectators for the bullpen session. Besides about 15 members of the media, several of the Mariners coaches – major league and minor league -were on hand along with manager Lloyd McClendon. Most of the training staff and team doctors Ed Khalfayan and Mitch Storey were there. Even members of the marketing and media relations were on hand – taking pictures. Walker couldn’t remember ever seeing so many people for a bullpen.
“Even my family was here watching,” he said. “They were all excited.”
What did McClendon think?
“It’s a bullpen session, you know,” he said. “(Walker) threw the ball just fine. Felix threw the ball great.”
Walker threw 25 pitches – all fastballs.
“He was throwing 90-95 percent. Not 100 percent,” pitching coach Rick Wait said. “We don’t need that yet. This was really his first bullpen. The main thing is, I don’t want to put a date on anything, we’re just going to go through the process and get him ready. I anticipate him to be ready when he’s ready.”
Of course, the biggest concern has been the soreness Walker felt in his shoulder in the first few days. But he said everything went well.
“It felt great,” he said. “I’ve got another one Thursday. It felt good to be back on the mound. Finally. We got that first bullpen out of the way and it’s time to move forward.”
Walker said he won’t have to do any more precautionary work. It’s just normal maintenance for him.
Waits liked how controlled Walker was during the bullpen. He hasn’t had to ask Walker slow down.
“You do have to do that with a lot of guys who just want to really speed up and overthrow,” Waits said. “But Taijuan has been good at that, understanding his arm and body and doing the bullpens right. He did it right today.”
It’s not often when Hernandez isn’t the focal point of a bullpen session. But he didn’t mind. He threw around 30-35 pitches and worked in all of his pitches other than the slider.
“Too early for that,” he said.
How did he feel?
“Not bad,” he said. “It was good. The beginning I was little wild. The ball was up. At the end, the ball was coming out pretty good.”
Hernandez said Waits has him on the same type of schedule as he was last spring.
“Same as last three years I think it is,” he said. “I was talking to Rick and he said, ‘We’ll do the same thing. Slow down a little bit and get you ready for opening day.'”
One thing that was interesting see and a positive for the Mariners. As Walker and Hernandez were playing catch to prepare for their bullpen sessions, Walker tossed a few change-ups to Hernandez, who in turn offered some advice to him about the pitch.
“I was just trying to help with his change-up,” Hernandez said. “He was a little up. I was telling him to finish it and throw it down. It’s going to help. As a No. 1, I have to tell them what I do with my change-up so the know a little way.”