Walker aces test in Triple A for Braves

Published 9:17 am Thursday, September 20, 2018

After experiencing a string of underwhelming performances in April, and then again in July, pitcher Jeremy Walker redeemed himself down the stretch and ended the season on a stratospheric high, pitching an eight-inning gem in his Triple-A debut.

At one point in late July, Walker – a 23-year-old righthander for the Florida Fire Frogs, an Advanced-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves – was 2-10 with a 5.01 ERA.

A month later, he was feeling a whole lot better about himself.

“I had a pretty bad April,” he said. “May and June were both good. I had a two ERA both of those months. July I really struggled.”

Man, did he catch fire in the last month. In a 7-3 win over Fort Myers on Aug. 5, he allowed one run in 6.2 innings. In a 6-4 loss to Fort Myers on Aug. 10, he got a no-decision after giving up three runs in eight innings, walking one and striking out seven. He wasn’t great in a 6-2 loss to St. Lucie on Aug. 15, but he resumed his golden stretch on Aug. 21, working seven four-hit, scoreless innings in a 3-1 win over Jupiter, with one walk and nine Ks. In a 4-3 win over Lakeland on Aug. 26, he allowed one run in six innings, walked none and fanned five.

He achieved vindication by going 4-1 with a 1.94 ERA in his last six starts with Florida.

“I definitely finished strong, a lot like last year,” he said. “I didn’t master the level, but it’s good I showed them I can pitch to success at this level. I think I’ll sign in Double-A (next year), but I don’t know for sure.”

Walker got a nice surprise in the final week of the season, getting an opportunity to start on the mound for the Triple-A Gwinnett Stripers on Sept. 2.

“I was supposed to start in the Florida State League on Friday (Aug. 31),” Walker said. “That was the day before they made roster moves. They told me at 2 o’clock and I was on a flight by 4 to Atlanta. I don’t really know why they didn’t use somebody from Double-A. I wasn’t expecting it at all. They said I was going up. I was open to it; it was definitely an opportunity. I think they wanted to see how my stuff played up there. Sometimes a guy’s stuff is good at certain levels and not as good at other levels.”

Walker aced the test in Lawrenceville, Ga., where Gwinnett hosted the Charlotte Knights.

He retired the first 12 batters before a walk in the fifth. He had a no-hitter until a leadoff single in the sixth. He had a one-hitter through seven. He wiggled out of a first-and-third, nobody-out jam in the eighth. He finished with an eight-inning three-hitter, one walk and six Ks as the Stripers won 2-0. Chad Sobotka got the save in a one-hour, 58-minute game – the Stripers’ shortest nine-inning game all year.

Walker’s eight-inning outing tied his career high and matched the Stripers’ season high. His final line for Florida/Gwinnett: 6-11 record and 3.83 ERA in 26 starts and 143 innings.

“It’s good that I did good just to show them that my stuff will play later on,” he said. “I was looking to give them four or five innings. I ended up doing really well. My stuff was good. I was commanding the zone.

“My parents came to the game. Larry and Beverly Colbourne came, too. I know it’s not the big leagues, but it was still a good experience.”