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March 22, 2014 at 1:59 PM

Walker, Pryor see their first live game action

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If you are wondering why there is no game thread up, it’s not because I’m skipping out and watching college hoops in a sports bar somewhere (though that would be enjoyable). I decided to stay and cover Taijuan Walker and Stephen Pryor pitching in the minor league game here in Peoria instead of going to one of the other games. I felt – and my editor agreed – that it was more important.

Walker started the game against the Padres AAA squad, and pitched one inning. . He gave up a lead-off double down the line, sawed off a  hitter for a weak line out to third, got a ground ball to shortstop for an out, wild pitched a run in from third, gave up a triple and then got a fly out.

He threw nothing but fastballs and change-ups in the inning. His fastball ranged from 93-96 mph. His change-up was in the mid 80s and showed decent movement.

“I was pumped,” he said. “I was trying not to be. I felt like I wasn’t overthrowing or trying to throw too hard.”

Walker threw an additional 15 pitches in the bullpen to reach his pitch count.

“They just wanted me to get some extra pitches without facing hitters,” he said.  “When you are facing hitters, you get amped up a little bit. They wanted it nice and easy for the last 15.”

Walker wasn’t pinpoint with his command, but he felt like it was OK considering it was his first game action of the spring.

“This one was almost like a tester game to see how it felt,” he said. “All that other stuff will come. I felt like my fastball location was pretty good. It’s not where I want it, but I’m happy with it.”

But it’s the lack of pain or stiffness in his shoulder that is the best result of the outing.

“I just walk away happy because my arm feels good,” he said.

Pryor followed Walker and worked a 1-2-3 inning, getting a strike out looking and a pair of ground balls to third. His fastball was right around 91-93 and he threw his slider and change-up.

Like Walker, he was eager to pitch in the game.

“I was excited,” he said. “This is the first time my arm has felt right since I got hurt last year in April. It’s something to build off of. I feel back to normal. I don’t have to think about where my arm slot or if this one is going to hurt or not.”

Pryor’s command of the slider and change-up weren’t sharp. But there wasn’t really an expectation for them to be considering the time off.

“They weren’t good, but they were there,” he said.

The slider had good break on it and sat around 85 mph.

“For me that’s the pitch I’m going to get outs with,” he said. “That’s the pitch I can throw for a ground ball or a pop up. That’s the pitch I got to have for my most of my outings.”

But considering the time off and the seriousness of the surgery, Pryor knows he’s still got some things to take care of before he pitches in a major league game.

“I feel like I’ve still got some work to do, finishing touches and build up some arm strength a little more,” he said. “I’m not quite where I want to be.”

The improved arm strength will help with his velocity. A fastball at 91-92 is down for Pryor. He normally sits around 94-96 and touches 98. But he isn’t concerned.

“I’m not worried about it at this point. I’m feeling good,” he said. “I feel like  can pound the zone at this point. It’s getting the adrenaline and everything working together is the next step to getting that velocity up.”

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