Will Taijuan Walker prove the Phillies made a mistake not using him in the postseason?
Even after such an up-and-down season, the way Taijuan Walker's 2023 campaign ended, or rather unceremoniously fizzled out, was surprising, especially to the veteran pitcher. Walker took issue with being included on all three postseason rosters but not seeing the field for even one pitch.
While you can't blame the 11-year veteran for being upset about being relegated to a bench warmer in October, it's also easy to see why the team opted to go with other options.
Walker posted a 15-6 record in his first year in red pinstripes and finished with a 4.38 ERA and 1.31 WHIP. He just didn't do enough to move up the pecking order come playoff time. With Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, and Ranger Suárez pitching as well as they did, there weren't any openings in the abbreviated playoff rotation.
The right-hander's rough September contributed to his benching. The 31-year-old had a 5.93 ERA in the final month, which came after a tough first two months of the season when he had a 5.57 ERA through May. The only reason his 2023 stats are passable is his phenomenal June 1.50 ERA and his July 3.86 ERA.
Can Walker prove to be a piece that manager Rob Thomson can rely on through the regular season and then in the playoffs? He has had some impressive seasons in recent memory that show he has the ability.
Last year with the New York Mets, he had a 3.49 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 157 1/3 innings. In 2020, he was an All-Star with a sparkling 2.70 ERA over 53 1/3 innings in the shortened season.
That's the pitcher the Phillies were hoping they were signing last offseason, and he'll have to prove it in the second year of his four-year, $72 million deal. The club has high hopes for Walker next year, which Dave Dombrowski spoke about at his end-of-year presser.
"I like Taijuan Walker. I think he did a nice job," Dombrowski said. "I look for him to be a real solid part of our rotation. I look for him to pitch well for us next year."
The fans will be looking for that too.
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