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Oh Yeah, That Guy: Tyler Walker

You might not remember Tyler Walker, but he had an excellent week back in 1998.

Mets Media Day X
Tyler Walker

September 06 to September 12 (1998): 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 16 K

Born on May 15, 1976 in San Francisco, California, Tyler Walker stayed locxxccvcxz1112 al for virtually all of his schooling, attending San Francisco University High School, a private college prep, and then University of California, Berkeley. He played on the Berkeley baseball team for his sophomore and junior years, posting a 3.58 ERA in 37.1 innings in the former and a 3.40 ERA in 47.2 innings in the latter. Formerly a catcher, he was given the nickname “Gobbler” because he would take a shot (illegally) of Wild Turkey bourbon to calm his nerves before jogging down to the bullpen in the early days of his transition from position player to pitcher. The Bears’ primary closer, Walker threw in the mid-90s with a good curveball and advanced changeup and was considered one of the better players available in the 1997 MLB Draft. The Mets selected the right-hander using their second-round pick, making Walker the 58th player selected overall.

After signing for $425,000, the 21-year-old did not pitch much for the rest of the season, tossing only a handful of innings for the GCL and Pittsfield Mets. His first real foray into professional baseball came the following season, when he was assigned to the Capital City Bombers. The right-hander spent the entire 1998 season with the Bombers, pitching as both a reliever to begin the year and transitioning into a starter midyear. On the whole, the numbers were not particularly great, but neither were they particularly poor. In 115.2 total innings, he posted a 4.12 ERA, allowing 122 hits, walking 38, and striking out 110.

The Capital City Bombers went 90-51 that year, the best in the minor leagues, and found themselves in the South Atlantic League playoffs. Down 1-0 to the Greensboro Bats in the finals, Doug Davis tabbed Walker as the Game Two starter. The right-hander responded by striking out 16 in a 8-1 route of the Bats en route to the Columbia Bombers’ first South Atlantic League championship (and the Columbia franchise’s third, as they had won twice as the Columbia Mets). “I had great command of all my pitches,” he said. “The curveball was on early, and I started working in the changeup later on. The fastball was there all day.” According to fellow pitching prospect Geoff Goetz, “His stuff was really explosive. From a pitching perspective, he had great tilt, great backspin. He was right over the top but had that riding fastball that really exploded when he was letting it rip.”

Ranked the Mets’ 12th best prospect going into the 1999 season, Walker began the season in St. Lucie and pitched extremely well. Used exclusively as a starter, he posted a 2.94 ERA in 79.2 innings. He was promoted to Binghamton midseason and stumbled against Double-A competition, posting a 6.22 ERA in 68.0 innings. The right-hander remained in Binghamton in 2000 and acclimated himself to the relatively advanced hitters that he was facing, posting a 2.75 ERA in 121.0 innings. The Mets promoted him to the Norfolk Tides at the end of the season, and then sent him to the Arizona Fall League. While he was pitching in the AFL, Walker torn his labrum, an injury that required surgery to correct.

Because of his performance, he was named the Mets’ 15th best prospect going into the 2001 season. He was eased back onto the mound after missing roughly six months, pitching for St. Lucie, Binghamton, and Norfolk over the course of the season. At all three stops combined, he posted a 3.79 ERA in 78.1 innings, allowing 62 hits, walking 24, and striking out 59. Named the Mets’ 16th best prospect for the 2002 season, Walker finally made his major league debut that year, appearing in a single game in July and then appearing in a few more in September. All in all, he posted a 3.99 ERA in 142.0 innings for the Tides and a 5.91 ERA in 10.2 innings with the Mets. He underwent arthroscopic surgery to clean out his right knee when the season ended but was fully healthy when spring training began.

Named the Mets’ 20th best prospect for the 2003 season, Walker was claimed off of waivers by the Detroit Tigers after being left exposed following spring training. Despite the 2003 Tigers being one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball history, the right-hander was unable to crack their roster, spending the entire season on their Triple-A team, the Toledo Mud Hens. A free agent at the conclusion of the season, he signed with the San Francisco Giants. He pitched well in San Francisco, really in coming into his own in 2005 when he filled in for injured closer Armando Benitez for roughly three months and saved 23 games.

After posting a cumulative 4.24 ERA in 119 games with the Giants in 2004 and 2005, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in exchange for Carlos Hines at the start of the 2006 season. In mid-June, he strained his right elbow, and the injury necessitated Tommy John surgery to correct. Tampa Bay released him, and he returned to the Giants when he was finished rehabbing. He would sign with the Seattle Mariners and Philadelphia Phillies, before signing with the Washington Nationals in 2010 in what would be his final major league contract. All in all, over the span of eight years, he posted a 4.23 ERA in 299.2 innings over 286 games, allowing 300 hits, walking 110, striking out 243, and saving 34 games.

After sitting out for most of the 2011 season, he played for a pair of independent teams at the end of the season, both teams looking to fortify their respective bullpens for end-of-the-season stretch runs. Walker appeared in 12 games for the St. Paul Saints and allowed 3 earned runs in 12.0 innings, giving up 9 hits, walking 2, and striking out 13. He appeared in 2 games for the Long Island Ducks and allowed 1 earned run in 2.0 innings, giving up 3 hits, walking 0, and striking out 1.

In 2012, he returned to UC Berkeley to finish his college degree, graduating in 2013 with a Bachelor’s in Political Science and Government. In 2014, after obtaining a real estate license, he began working at SRS Real Estate Partners in San Francisco, California. In 2016, he left the brokerage and began working as the Director of Leasing for A&C Ventures and First Street Development, a pair of California-based retail investment and development firms.