As Toronto Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker readies his bullpen and rotation for the 2017 season, he’s also keeping tabs on those who haven’t been in Dunedin.
Walker admitted to being nervous about potential injuries to his pitchers, but recognized the value in playing in a high-intensity environment so early in the season.
“Obviously the intensity of those games and the adrenaline, it’s different. It’s a different animal. So that always concerns you this early,” Walker said during an appearance on The Jeff Blair Show on Sportsnet 590 The FAN.
Walker said he’s been in touch plenty while reviewing game tape from the tournament.
“Even though they’re not here [in Dunedin], we’re still keeping an eye on them, that’s for sure, watching video and making sure everything’s in check,” he said. “But you know it’s a good opportunity for them to compete at a high level.”
Each pitcher has experienced some difficulties during the tournament. Osuna allowed five runs in the ninth inning against Italy during round-robin play early in the competition. Mexico did not advance past the first round.
Stroman had a shaky outing against Puerto Rico on Friday, giving up four runs in the first inning. He ultimately stayed in the game until through 4 2/3 innings.
“Marcus had that tough first inning. The one thing I talked to him about the next day was his composure, his mound presence. He didn’t let it rattle him,” Walker said. “He’s got the Puerto Rico dugout on the third base line, you know, rubbing their heads and trying to knock him out of the game, and he hung in there. And then pitching in the fifth inning, getting into his pitch count, which showed me a lot. I think it was good.”
Despite the U.S.’s loss, they still advanced to the WBC semi-finals due to a win on Saturday night. Team USA will take on Japan Tuesday.
“I think the atmosphere is great to pitch in at this point,” said Walker. “I expect a big year out of him.”