Walker posting good era with Danville

Published 9:39 am Thursday, August 11, 2016

Jeremy Walker’s professional baseball debut was an aberration. He allowed a home run to the first batter he faced, but he’s delivered eye-popping stats since that June 27 night.

Walker, a 6-5, 205-pound, 21-year-old righthander from Advance, was a fifth-round draft pick by the Atlanta Braves in June. He left Gardner-Webb following his junior season and joined the Danville Braves at the advanced-rookie level in the Appalachian League.

He has appeared in eight games, coming out of the bullpen in all but his last outing.

“My fastball has been 92-94 and I’ve touched 97,” Walker said. “And my curveball has really progressed since I’ve been here.

“I’m throwing two innings every five days because I threw a bunch of innings this season (at Gardner-Webb), and they don’t want to overdo it. It’s been pretty good.”

He has averaged 4.4 off days between mound appearances. What does he do on his off days? He sweats. There’s not much time for golf or goofing off.

“The day after I throw, we have an upper-body workout and we have a bunch of running to do,” he said. “The next day we have a lower-body workout and that’s our ‘pen day. You really don’t have that much (free) time. You get back to your place at 12 (midnight). You sleep until 10 or 11 and then you’ve got to be at the field by 1:30.”

Walker debuted on June 27 during a 5-4 win at Princeton. He worked 1 2/3 innings in relief, allowing four hits and two runs. That part of his line was rough, but he did strike out four with no walks.

“The first batter I faced hit a bomb off me,” he said. “At least I got it over with. It’s going to happen. Everybody here is good, so you’ve got to be ready to throw every single time. I was a little bit amped up; I was throwing hard. After that first batter, I settled in really good. I was definitely throwing harder than normal.”

Walker certainly made amends, responding with three straight scoreless outings over seven innings on July 2, July 7 and July 14. During that hot stretch, he walked none and struck out seven.

“I don’t know if it was just me calming down a little bit or things just going right,” he said. “It’s baseball. Sometimes you give up three hard balls that are all outs. Or you give up three dinkers that are all hits. I try not to look at stats that much. It’s good that I’m staying around the zone, but it can always get better.”

July 28 was a milestone moment as Walker picked up his first professional win during a 12-4 decision at Princeton. He went three innings, allowed one run on two hits, walked one and fanned five. He entered in the sixth with the score 2-2. Princeton took a 3-2 lead in the seventh, but Danville tied it in the top of the eighth. The Braves erupted for nine in the ninth, securing the win for Walker.

“Everybody knew it was happening,” he said. “I was lined up for the win as long as we won the game. Our closer (Jacob Webb) threw the ninth and we won. It was really cool.”

Danville’s record was 20-22 through Aug. 7. Walker has been excellent, especially since his second outing (17 2/3 innings, 13 hits, three earned runs, 1.52 ERA).

All told, he’s 1-1 with a 2.33 ERA. In 19 1/3 innings, he’s given up 17 hits and six runs (five earned), with six walks and 21 Ks. He made his first start on Aug. 4 at Bluefield. The Braves lost 2-0, causing Walker to suffer his first loss, but Walker gave his team everything he could: four innings, one hit and one unearned run.

His family – parents Joel and Lori and brother Jacob – has been in attendance for most of Walker’s games. That means everything to him.

“They’ve come to a lot (of games),” he said. “It’s only like an hour and a half from my house. They tell me what day I’m throwing for sure, so I’m able to tell my parents and friends. So they’ve come to pretty much every game I’ve had at home and a couple on the road, too. So that’s been really nice.”