06/04/09 2:35 AM ET
Walker may be at end of road
O's reliever struggling to retire left-handers
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
Both manager Dave Trembley and southpaw Jamie Walker openly discussed the prospect of making a change before Wednesday's 3-2 loss to the Mariners, one day after the veteran allowed two home runs to left-handed hitters. Lefties are hitting .458 off Walker, and Trembley didn't flinch when asked if the reliever has reached the end of the road.
"That's a very good question," he said. "And it deserves considerable consideration on the off-day tomorrow."
Prior to that comment, Trembley had never even acknowledged that possibility. Walker, who's in the last season of a three-year deal he signed as a free agent, has gotten to the point where he doesn't have a role. The left-hander didn't shrink from that reality Wednesday in the hours before Baltimore's game against Seattle.
"That's my job. I've got to go out there and produce or they're going to [release] me," said Walker. "That's the business of a reliever. It's frustrating because I'm trying everything. They're sitting on a certain pitch, and I'm thinking and trying to do everything I can. All I can hope is that I get to go back out there."
Walker was an integral member of the bullpen in 2007, when he even found himself working as a closer toward the end of the year. Walker's effectiveness waned last season, and he spent time on the disabled list with inflammation in his left elbow. This year, he's healthy, but he hasn't been able to find his groove.
Walker, who led the Orioles in appearances in each of his two full seasons with the team, is trying to figure out what's going wrong. The 37-year-old said he feels healthy and that the ball is coming out of his hand well, but he doesn't have an explanation for why teams have been able to tee off on him in the first two months of the season.
In fact, Tuesday night's appearance was more or less an apt microcosm of his season. Walker came into a 5-1 game and retired Ichiro Suzuki before giving up home runs to Russell Branyan and Ken Griffey Jr.
"I got Ichiro out on some good pitches. I made some good pitches to Branyan," he said. "It just seems like when you are struggling, every mistake you make gets capitalized on. The pitch to Branyan wasn't a very good pitch, but again, it was three balls and two strikes and I'm a strike-thrower. I went in and looked at the Griffey pitch today. I'm trying to do the best I can out there. ... I'm going to keep trying until they quit running me out there."
Walker went on to say that he's made some mechanical adjustments and that his confidence remains intact. Now, he just has to figure out a way to execute his pitches better without tipping his hand. Trembley, meanwhile, evaded the question when asked if he can still trust Walker to pitch in some tight situations.
"Trust is a tough one for me, but obviously, I'd like things to be better," he said. "I'd like to see him be more effective against left-handed hitters. Obviously, I'm aware of what's going on. Hopefully, it gets better."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.