Full Transcription: Taijuan Walker’s Opening Press Conference
Taijuan Walker is officially a Philadelphia Phillie.
Taijuan Walker’s Opening Press Conference
Taijuan Walker met with the media today in his opening press conference just a few weeks after signing his 4-year, $72M contract with the Phillies, which keeps him here through the 2026 season. He will wear 99, the first player to wear the number since So Taguchi.
Here’s a full transcription of Taijuan Walker’s press conference.
Dave Dombrowski’s Opening Remarks
“Very exciting day for our organization. Quality starting pitcher to go with our other guys up there; we’re very excited to bring him on board. Goes out there every five days; we love his split finger. We’re very happy to bring him on board. He’s already found a place to stay…special thanks to everyone in the organization. We had a great zoom with Caleb and the other staff. To Scott and his group, thanks for making this happen. Welcome to your new home.”
Could you talk about the path here? What attracted you to the Phillies? How many other teams were interested?
We got on a zoom call a couple of weeks ago and talked with Dave, Caleb, etc. Their vision for me is what they can do to help me get better, especially with my splitter. Help develop my cutter a little more. Just to be at it with Nola, Wheeler, and Suarez, I really like the lineup. 1-9 can do damage in the lineup; I was really excited about that. Ready to win. Getting Trea Turner was huge.
Is there a significance behind 99?
Walker: “I think there was one team I couldn’t go to that I couldn’t wear 99 was the Yankees, I was tired of switching my number.”
What’s been the biggest change for you in the last several years as a pitcher?
Walker: “Split-finger, being more aggressive. Being in a rotation with deGrom, Scherzer, and Bassitt. Carrasco helped me develop my splitter, picking their brains. I loved learning from Max.”
Dave, what made Taijuan a good fit for this rotation? What did you value the most?
Dave: “We had our meetings and discussed him thoroughly. We were looking for that person that’s going to give us a chance to win every start, give us innings. We liked his stuff. We had all of our evaluations. He looked like a natural fit, and we know we can help make him elevate his game.”
Scott, you’re well aware of the Phillies’ pitching. What makes you think that Taijuan fits now and later?
“Tai is an interesting athlete in the sense that, for me, sometimes, when you’re a great athlete in baseball, there’s a lot of definition going on because you have so many alternatives. When Tai found his splitter, all things began to form into a confidence level. It’s very difficult to get past 150 innings in the MLB. His athleticism is coordinated with his mechanics. We’re seeing something from where this is one of those situations where the athlete is forming into the pitcher, and we’re going to see performance levels out of Tai. His experience, his repertoire. There’s a certain catcher here that’s pretty good.
Tai and I were talking; Dave’s a little bit older than I am, but we kinda looked at one another and we knew that this guy fits here. We’ve got great #1 and #1a pitchers here to go with Tai. This man is an amazing athlete. I’m really excited to be around this team, we’ll see a lot more out of Tai. “
Was there an “aha” moment for your splitter?
Walker: “It was early in the 2022 season, May. I had gotten in some jams and was getting beat by my fastball. I realized how good my splitter was; I kept telling myself if I was going to get beat, I want to get beat by my best pitch.”
Zack Wheeler signed from the Mets, and he talked about how the Phillies’ analytics dept would help him go to the next level. Is there any of that for you?
Walker: “Every organization is different. I was able to throw my splitter more with the Mets, ready to tweak my cutter and slider with Caleb and focus on the usage of my splitter. Really just attacking the zone. We’ve had conversations about the 3-1 count, can’t wait to have the best catcher in the game behind the plate. Always open to learning and trying new things.”
Tai, you just mentioned that Mets rotation. How much did you learn from those veterans?
Walker: “Max, future hall of fame. For him, it’s really just how he goes out and attacks. His bullpens, every pitch matters with him. When I had a couple of outings, he’d really help me lock back in. deGrom is special. Coming over here with Wheeler and Nola seeing how they throw their slider.”
Tai, how important was the last two years for you with the inning increase?
Walker: “It felt good. The 2021 season, throwing over 150 innings, felt good. Last year felt good to repeat that. I want to be better each year. Being out with TJ for two years was tough.”
Dave, you talked about a young pitcher in that five spot. How important was it for you to get a reliable pitcher and have that track record?
Dave: “Extremely important when you’re trying to win a championship. We’re really looking for five quality starters. Bailey pitched great for us; we have a lot of depth. Anytime you give yourself an edge, you’re always looking from that edge from a starting pitcher. Always look for quality.”
Tai, the atmosphere of CBP in the postseason. Dit that impact?
alker: “Definitely. Heard nothing but good things. I talked to Ryan Howard the other day, said it’s the loudest he’s ever heard a stadium. I love the passionate fans; they’re loud. “
Dave to follow on Scott’s point about Tai’s ceiling. He thinks there’s another level; do you believe that too?
Dave: “We do, too; there is another level. You try to do your homework and try to look at a pitcher and their qualities. High draft pick, a quality pitching prospect, tremendous athlete. You deal with a lot of those things that put you in a position to improve; he’s improved the last couple of years. He’s got quality stuff that can win consistently. We think we can shape the pitches better. We’re here; why can’t we get better? He’s in the prime of his career. He doesn’t have to be the guy, although he could handle it if needed. It’s a tremendous setting for him to accomplish that. We like the overall ability. Tremendous work ethic. Out of the blue, people have called us and said you’re getting one of the best teammates the game has ever seen. One of the people Tai talked to was Tori Hunter, they don’t come better than those two. It’s a total package.”
Tai: Being on the other side of this rivalry. What was your approach when you faced the Phillies?
Walker: “Keeping guys off base. Happy I don’t have to face Schwarber anymore. Have so many guys that can hit. Harper is great, he can hit 40 HRs but wants to win. They’re not selfish. They know what they need to do to get the job done, knowing what they need to do to win. Being aggressive on the mound with them behind me.”
You mentioned Ryan Howard earlier. Did you guys know each other before?
Walker: “Howard and Rollins are the best. Picked their brains a lot about the clubhouse, city, etc. Had a bunch of guys on this Phillies team. Brad Miller said it’s the best clubhouse.”
How is it going to be facing the Mets again?
Walker: “It’s going to be fun, Francisco texted me. Friends off the field, but they’re the enemy on the field. Going to compete always.”
Have you always thrown a splitter?
Walker: “I’ve always thrown it, started off really inconsistent. This year really helped with Carrasco, changed his grip. I used both grips against the Phillies in one game and started using his grip. Ever since I saw the consistency, I wanted to keep throwing it.”
Mandatory Credit: Alex Coffey of The Philadelphia Inquirer