For the first two months of the offseason, Christian Walker’s status was unclear. Many assumed the first baseman would not be back with the Diamondbacks this season. Even Walker, coming off a frustrating 2021 season, didn’t know what to expect.
“It was a period of suspense,” he said.
Ultimately, the Diamondbacks chose not to sever ties with him. By offering him a contract in November, they pushed him into baseball’s arbitration system. Walker is glad they did.
“I know myself,” Walker said. “I know what I am capable of. I have confidence in myself. And I think it’s just a matter of just wanting the opportunity for redemption, for a return on investment. Last year was not the year I had in mind. So luckily to be able to be back with Arizona and have the opportunity to close that door and start another season, I’m really looking forward to it.
Walker hit just .244 with 10 home runs in 445 plate appearances last season. His year started off on the wrong foot almost immediately; in Game 3 of the season, an errant pitch from Josh Rojas took a bad jump and hit Walker in the face, leaving with a laceration and a black eye. A week later he went down with an oblique injury which ultimately required two runs on the injured list – and which he believes played a role in his bad year.
Walker said the down year — and whether he would end up not being bid — served as both a “humiliating” experience and motivation to head into the winter.
“It was just more salt in the wound and just a little more fuel for the fire,” Walker said. “It made it easier to dive into this offseason and take it seriously.”
He said he started his offseason at the Titleist Performance Institute in California, where he underwent tests to measure his biomechanical movements, then based his offseason program on that information. He said he wanted to “clean up” his bat path and train his body to react better to handle a variety of terrain types and pitches.
“I’ve traditionally been a right-centered, opposite-field type of thought process and for a while that was where I needed to be and it worked,” Walker said. “I think as our bodies change and the league learns about you and there’s more data and more bats to use against you, it almost seems silly to try to be the same guy every year, every drummer I can’t wait to show everyone the growth and get out of my comfort zone a bit.
The lockout created a potentially awkward situation for Walker and the rest of the Diamondbacks’ remaining arbitration-eligible players: hearings were held during the season. If the parties cannot agree on a salary amount, cases could be heard on the same day as a game.
“It’s just another element of this weird start to the year,” Walker said. “Honestly, I feel lucky to be in this situation to have the opportunity to (go through) refereeing and everything. A lot of players don’t understand that.
MLB Trade Rumors predicts Walker will be in line to earn around $2.7 million.
Ready, ready, go
With reports that owners and players could be close to reaching an agreement, Diamondbacks wide receiver/outfielder Daulton Varsho made sure his bags were packed so he could take a quick jaunt to Arizona from his home in Wisconsin. He managed to get out on Thursday.
“The lockdown ended and I was in my truck within an hour and a half,” Varsho said.
He said he and his wife passed Kansas City before stopping for the night around 12:30 p.m. They completed the rest of the trip to Phoenix on Friday.
The Diamondbacks released a finalized spring training schedule on Sunday that included not only hours of play but also an extra game, bringing their spring total to 22 – one more than was listed in a schedule of 21. games released by Major League Baseball on Friday. .
The 22 games are the most for any team in the majors this spring.
“The D-Backs and the Rockies are both trying to add more (games) for player preparation, but also to address some of the loss of games for the Salt River Indian community Pima Maricopa, a great partnership,” Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall wrote in a text message.
The schedule included an additional split-team game on March 27. The Diamondbacks will have three such days this spring in which they will play two games.
The Diamondbacks will hold their first official practice Monday at Salt River Fields. The practice, which should start around 9:30-10am, is open to the public. Fans will be allowed to park on the central field and will have access, at a minimum, to the clover fields on the northeast part of the complex. Other areas of the facility could also be opened.