Arizona Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke comments on his side session to minor leaguers at Salt River Fields on Mar. 13, 2017. By Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports
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Diamondbacks lefty Patrick Corbin gave up three runs in 3 1/3 innings against the White Sox but came away sounding upbeat. Video: Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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Right-hander Taijuan Walker struck out eight in four scoreless innings for the Diamondbacks on Friday vs. the Brewers.
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Diamondbacks right-hander Zack Greinke’s fastball was in the upper-80s on Wednesday at Salt River Fields.
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Diamondbacks starter Shelby Miller lasted 2 2/3 innings against the A’s, giving up six runs, on Tuesday. Scott Bordow/azcentral sports
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Arizona Diamondbacks RHP Taijuan Walker gave up just one hit in three scoreless innings against the White Sox on Sunday, Mar. 5, 2017. (Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports)
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Diamondbacks starter Patrick Corbin, who is vying for a spot in the rotation, gave up two runs in three innings against the Padres on Saturday in Peoria.
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Diamondbacks right-handed Shelby Miller talks about his impressive outing vs. the Cubs. Miller struck out six in three innings.
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Diamondbacks right-hander Archie Bradley tossed three scoreless innings in his second start of spring training.
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Diamondbacks lefty Robbie Ray was upbeat despite walking three in 1 1/3 innings on Wednesday. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale breaks down the story lines to follow as spring training heats up.
USA TODAY Sports
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Diamondbacks right-hander Taijuan Walker talks about his outing on Tuesday against the Texas Rangers in Surprise. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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Here are some longtime favorites about America’s favorite pastime.
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The MLB is changing up the intentional walk in an effort to improve the pace of play.
USA TODAY Sports
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The Brewers by position: Bullpen
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USA TODAY Sports has released its projected win totals for the 2017 MLB season.
USA TODAY Sports
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USA TODAY Sports released its annual list of players to watch for in the upcoming season.
USA TODAY Sports
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MLB commissioner Rob Manfred spoke about his frustration with the MLBPA, which he said rebuffed the league’s efforts to make any of a number of rules changes at Tuesday’s Cactus League Media Day at the Biltmore. Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral sports
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The Diamondbacks’ Ken Kendrick discusses the team’s lawsuit with the Maricopa County Stadium District over over Chase Field maintenance costs at spring-training camp on Friday.
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Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo discusses star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and his new team’s foundation at Cactus League Media Day at the Arizona Biltmore on Tuesday. Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral sports
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The Diamondbacks had their photos taken on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017 at Salt River Fields.
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Cubs manager Joe Maddon discusses how difficult it is to win back-to-back championships in the MLB on Tuesday at Cactus League Media Day at the Arizona Biltmore on Tuesday. Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral sports
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Cubs manager Joe Maddon discusses how to prepare for this season in regards to overworking and injuries after last season’s championship run at Cactus League Media Day at the Arizona Biltmore on Tuesday. Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral sports
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The Arizona Diamondbacks hosted fans to celebrate the start of spring training and the 2017 season at D-Backs Fan Fest at Salt River Fields on Monday. Hannah Gaber/azcentral.com
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Diamondbacks closer Fernando Rodney tosses a bullpen session at Salt River Fields.
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There are several MLB teams looking for new stadiums, while at least two are happy with their old-school dwellings.
USA TODAY Sports
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Diamondbacks right-hander Taijuan Walker throws his first official bullpen session of spring training at Salt River Fields on Tuesday. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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Diamondbacks pitcher Shelby Miller tosses his first bullpen of the spring at Salt River Fields on Tuesday. Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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Ron Gardenhire, Arizona Diamondbacks bench coach, annouced on Tuesday that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the team’s spring training complex at Salt River Fields. Manager Torey Lovullo also spoke. Video: Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports
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Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo on what he sees in his team and pitcher Shelby Miller heading into the first days of spring training at Salt River Fields. Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports
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D-Backs pitcher Archie Bradley, sporting facial hair that he has not shaved since October 31st, reports to spring training camp in Scottsdale. (Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports)
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D-Backs skipper Torey Lovullo press conference at spring training camp in Scottsdale. (Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports)
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D-Backs pitcher Patrick Corbin reports to spring training camp in Scottsdale. (Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports)
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Diamondbacks right-hander Archie Bradley talks about the excitement of getting spring training started, saying “I couldn’t sleep last night.” Video: Nick Piecoro/azcentral sports
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The Diamondbacks have faced tough seasons and payroll limitations, and it might cost them a beloved franchise player. Hannah Gaber/azcentral.com
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Proliferation of young talent in the game provides an abundance of inexpensive options to stock a roster.
USA TODAY Sports
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Are the Arizona Diamondbacks right to sue Maricopa County over Chase Field? Columnist E.J. Montini says no.
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With the longest championship drought in American professional sports, the Cubs have seen a lot change since they last won the World Series, in 1908.
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Zack Greinke comments on his throwing session
Diamondbacks’ Patrick Corbin after spring outing vs. White Sox
Taijuan Walker after latest dominant start for D-Backs
Zack Greinke on his diminished velocity in start vs. Mexico
Shelby Miller discusses latest start
D-Backs’ Taijuan Walker on his latest strong outing
D-Backs lefty Patrick Corbin after spring outing vs. Padres
Shelby Miller on his outing vs. Cubs
Archie Bradley on strong outing vs. Padres
Robbie Ray on his spring training debut
Spring training story lines to watch
Taijuan Walker throws two innings in spring debut
Some things about Spring Training season just haven’t changed…
MLB changing intentional walks for 2017
Just the FAQs: Brewers at bullpen
Projecting the 2017 MLB season
MLB’s 100 Names to Know for 2017
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on rule changes, MLBPA cooperation
Diamondbacks’ Ken Kendrick discusses team’s lawsuit
D-Backs manager Torey Lovullo on Goldschmidt, team’s core
Behind the scenes at Diamondbacks Photo Day
Cubs’ Joe Maddon on why it’s difficult to repeat
Cubs’ Joe Maddon on this season’s preparation
A look at Diamondbacks Fan Fest 2017
Closer Fernando Rodney throws bullpen session
Baseball stadiums on the way out or in danger of extinction
Taijuan Walker throws bullpen session at Salt River Fields
Shelby Miller throws bullpen session at Salt River Fields
D-Backs bench coach Ron Gardenhire diagnosed with prostate cancer
D-Backs manager Lovullo on getting started, Shelby Miller
D-Backs pitcher Archie Bradley talks about his beard
D-Backs skipper Torey Lovullo press conference
D-Backs pitcher Patrick Corbin reports to spring training camp in Scottsdale
Diamondbacks’ pitcher Archie Bradley: “New year. New team. New everything. We’re excited.”
D-Backs near crossroads with Goldschmidt
The best MLB lineup realistic money can buy
Montini: Diamondbacks’ lawsuit is one big error
Cubs, coffee and cars: How things have changed since the North Siders last won the World Series
It doesn’t feel right to throw all kinds of expectations at Taijuan Walker because he has joined a rotation that didn’t weather the hype very well last season.
But you stand next to him, and you listen to him, and you watch him pitch and you wonder if something special might happen here.
In his first three outings, the Diamondbacks right-hander allowed three hits in nine scoreless innings, striking out 13 and walking one. Through four innings against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday night, he had eight strikeouts and allowed three runs in four innings against a lineup that included six Cubs regulars.
He has looked healthy and confident and has thrown a steady stream of first-pitch strikes.
Of course, Diamondbacks fans know better than anyone that Salt River Fields was a bed of fool’s gold last season. The team had the second-best record in the major leagues after the spring and the second-worst in the National League after the regular season. The pitching staff had the game’s highest ERA.
Walker hopes to help change that.
“He’s having a hell of a spring,” Shelby Miller said. “He’s a great person, great dude, great teammate.”
Genuine affection for the 24-year-old exists in the clubhouse, and the feeling is mutual. It’s not easy being traded from the only organization you know, as the former first-round pick was when the Seattle Mariners sent him and shortstop Ketel Marte to the Diamondbacks for Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger and Zac Curtis in November.
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Immediately, the text messages came from his new teammates.
“I told him, ‘I’m David Peralta. Congratulations. You’re part of our team, we’re a big family and I’m glad you’re part of it,’” the outfielder said.
Similar sentiments came from Miller.
“I know what it can be like coming into a new clubhouse, having been traded a couple times,” Miller said. “At first it’s always really hard.”
It meant a lot to Walker, who admitted the deal “was shocking.”
“A couple of days went by and everything started to calm down and it felt good,” he said. “I got here and it felt so normal. Everybody was so welcoming.”
With his easy smile, it’s clear why players gravitate to Walker. It’s more than that, of course. It’s the fastball in the mid-90s, the slider, the change-up. It’s his stature on the mound, and frankly, in the room. He is a 6-foot-4, 235-pound bundle of presence. He’s hard to miss.
The confidence comes from an ankle injury that is no longer a story line. In November, he had surgery to remove 10 bone spurs, one that he told reporters was three-quarters of an inch long and rubbing against his Achilles’ tendon. Last season when he was pitching, he couldn’t push off with his leg and relied on his upper body.
It likely contributed to an 8-11 record and 4.22 ERA, following an 11-8, 157-strikeout performance in 2015.
The Diamondbacks, led by new General Manager Mike Hazen’s first big move, firmly believe Walker still has great upside.
Because of the expectations that came with the player being drafted 43rd overall right out of Yucaipa (California) High School, surely the Mariners expected more from him. But they are also in a win-now mode and they wanted Segura, whom General Manager Jerry Dipoto praised for having a rare combination of contact, power and speed. They also felt Haniger was a high-ceiling and under-appreciated prospect.
It is a deal that could end up working for both sides.
As Walker walked onto the field at Mesa’s Sloan Park on Wednesday, with a towel around his neck and his frame dwarfing the teammate and coach next to him, the Diamondbacks posted a video on Twitter and described it as a “heavyweight fighter heading into the ring.”
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It was an appropriate description of a player that had Miller marveling at his commitment to his body and training room.
A soft side of Walker is present, too, one that likes to golf and watch movies, one that is close with his family, especially his mother.
He carries himself like someone with perspective.
In 2012, Nellie Garcia learned she had breast cancer, a diagnosis that came later than she wished because she lacked health insurance. It was a tough time for Walker, who watched the woman who raised four children on her own struggle. She is in remission and Wednesday was at Sloan Park watching her son.
She likes what she is seeing this spring, although she is the first to admit she is hard on her son. Walker will say the same.
He is having a fun time. Last week, he struck out his old high school teammate, Matt Davidson of the Chicago White Sox.
He mused on Twitter recently to never get in a car or golf cart with teammate Archie Bradley and shared a hashtag that said “never been more scared.”
Walker’s goal this season: “Just to be healthy and feel good and work on my mechanics and work on being consistent.”
It’s a simple goal and one that appeals to a Diamondbacks team that sports a clubhouse that looks like it can get something done this season.
Ultimately, it will be up to a starting rotation that can deliver.
Walker believes it can.