Blue Jays turn to Pete Walker as pitching coach
Pete Walker hoped that his coaching career would eventually land him a job as a major league pitching coach.
Eventually arrived Monday.
Walker, who lives in Waterford and played at East Lyme High School, was named the pitching coach of the Toronto Blue Jays.
"I'm a little ahead of my schedule,'' Walker said. "I hoped to be a major league pitching coach and it came a little quicker than I thought. At the same time, I feel I'm fully prepared and ready for the challenge.''
Walker, 43, was the Blue Jays bullpen coach last season, helping out pitching coach Bruce Walton. In 2010 he served the Blue Jays as their major league pitching coordinator in Dunedin, Fla., working with everyone from top prospects to rehabbing major leaguers.
"Bruce did a great job with the pitching staff and he's a great friend of mine,'' Walker said. "I've talked to him at length and he gave me his blessing. We shared a lot of duties last year. He gave me carte blanche with the pitchers.''
Walker pitched at UConn-Avery Point then UConn before being selected in the seventh round of the 1990 draft by the New York Mets. He pitched in the majors for the Mets, San Diego Padres, Colorado Rockies and Blue Jays for parts of eight seasons between 1995-2006. His career record is 20-14 in 144 games, including 21 starts.
He's also experienced pitching in Japan (2004), being sent down to the minors and getting call backed up. He was a starting pitcher, a long reliever and even a closer. And being not far removed from his playing days doesn't hurt either.
"I think that's one of my biggest strengths, that I can relate to (the players),'' Walker said. "One thing I did do was pitch in just about every role, a lot of these guys can relate to that.
"I've formed some really good relationships with these guys and I'm really excited to continue to be a part of the organization.''
Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos has been very active in the offseason, highlighted by a 12-player deal with the Miami Marlins that brought pitchers Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson, shortstop Jose Reyes, outfielder Emilio Bonifacio and catcher John Buck to Toronto. Outfielder Melky Cabrera, the most valuable player of last season's all-star game, was also signed as a free agent.
"There's some buzz about the Blue Jays here but there's an enormous buzz in Canada,'' Walker said. "Alex, our GM has done a tremendous job in the offseason. We're going to score some runs and the pitching staff that Alex has put together is going to win some games.''
New London's Rajai Davis, another former Avery Point star, led the Blue Jays in stolen bases last year. And Walker will see another familiar face in the dugout this season in John Gibbons, who became the manager last Wednesday. Gibbons managed the Jays from 2004-08 and Walker goes back with Gibbons to his days in the Mets' minor league system.
"I did pitch for him in Toronto,'' Walker said. "It will be fun working with somebody that I feel really close to.''
Walker knows what he wants from his pitchers.
"I want to avoid three-ball counts, forcing contact early in the count,'' Walker said. "We want to limit our walks. Aside from keeping the ball down, it's attack early and expand late.''
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