After early power surge, Seattle ready for home debut vs A's
SEATTLE (AP) For the second straight season, young Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker will make his season debut against Oakland.
Almost any result will be better than Walker's first start against the A's to begin last year. He gave up nine earned runs, nine hits and didn't make it through the fourth inning.
''I definitely want to go out there and have a good outing against them, because last year they got me pretty well. I guess a little payback this time,'' Walker said.
The Mariners return to the Pacific Northwest on Friday night to kick off their home slate with a three-game series against the A's. Friday will include all pomp and circumstance of a traditional opening day - including new Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. throwing out the first pitch - plus some curiosity about this year's Mariners.
Can the power surge Seattle displayed in Texas, led by four home runs by Robinson Cano, continue at home?
The Mariners hit nine home runs in the three-game series in Texas, where Seattle won two of three games and likely should have swept. Cano was the instigator of the power surge, becoming just the 29th player in major league history to homer in each of the first three games of the season.
It'll be the task of Oakland lefty Eric Surkamp to try to slow the Mariners. Surkamp is replacing Felix Doubront, who suffered an elbow sprain in his final spring training start last week.
He'll be opposed by Walker, who finished last season with an 11-8 mark and a 4.56 ERA. The Mariners didn't want to overwork his arm so he didn't pitch in late September after reaching 169 innings.
Walker admitted at times last season to pitching with the worry of being sent to the minors if he struggled, but said he's more comfortable with his position this year.
''I feel pretty good where I'm at right now,'' Walker said. ''I know (James) Paxton's down there waiting, and he's really good and any time he can come up here. I know I have to go out there and get my work in, and pretty much do my job and do what I can to help my teammates.''
New Seattle manager Scott Servais said the key for Walker on Friday and throughout the season is going to be his secondary pitches and not always relying on his fastball.
''I think he will be juiced up, but I think you'll see a really good fastball,'' Servais said. ''The thing with Taijuan is the secondary stuff, can he harness it, can he get it in the strike zone and be the complete pitcher, and doesn't get locked into one pitch. I'm excited for him to get that opportunity and I think he's ready for it.''
Friday will also be the home debut for Servais as manager. He won over many of his players and fans with a fiery display in Tuesday's win when he yelled and pointed at the Texas bench after Chris Iannetta was hit by a pitch.
''I know the city is excited, a lot of change, a lot of good vibe around our organization,'' Servais said. ''Rightly so, and I think they're going to like watching us play.''