Mariners add Walker to bullpen mix
Right-hander joins Heilman, Lowe, Batista as closer candidate
Seven minutes and about 30 pitches were all veteran right-handed reliever Tyler Walker needed to find another job.The brief throwing session, held nearly two weeks ago on a college campus in front of Mariners scout Tom Davis, worked out well and Walker signed a one-year Major League contract on Tuesday, becoming another candidate to fill the closer role next season. "That's not up to me," Walker said during a conference call, "but you ask any guy in the bullpen, and they will tell you that's the place to be." The 32-year-old Walker, who attended the University of California at Berkeley and had his tryout, of sorts, on campus on Dec. 19, was 5-8 with a 4.56 ERA for the Giants in 2008. Pitching primarily in a setup role, he had a single-season career high 19 holds and his 65 appearances were the second-highest total of his career -- two fewer than in 2005. Walker stranded more than 82 percent (32 of 39) of the runners he inherited and held opponents scoreless in 51 of his outings. Right-handers batted just .186 (14-for-129) against him. "Tyler is a pitcher we had identified early on as a guy who could help us in the bullpen," general manager Jack Zduriencik said in a release. "He has the ability to pitch in any role: middle relief, set-up and he has experience as a closer." Walker was the Giants closer for much of the 2005 season, replacing the injured Armando Benitez. He was 23-for-28 in save opportunities. He also had 10 saves with the Rays after being traded to Tampa Bay in 2006, prior to undergoing Tommy John ligament replacement surgery on July 6, 2006. Since returning to the Majors on Aug. 29, 2007, he is 7-8 with a 3.86 ERA.
Walker, released by the Giants after the 2008 season, said he immediately told his agent to check into the possibility of pitching for the Mariners."Seattle was at the top of my list," Walker said. "I like the weather, I like the city, I like the ballpark and Spring Training is in Arizona." Walker said he planned to return to his San Francisco-area home, pack up and head to Peoria, Ariz., for Spring Training. When camp opens on Feb. 14, he will join right-handers Aaron Heilman, Mark Lowe and Miguel Batista as the leading candidates to fill the hole created when J.J. Putz was traded to the Mets. The signing of Walker leaves the Mariners with one opening on the 40-man roster.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.