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Taijuan Walker brought the heat when he walked into his new kitchen.
When Walker took the mound Thursday, his first turn through the rotation, during the Mets home opener, it was almost like he was emerging brand new. The right-hander entered his first full (not shortened by the pandemic) season after Tommy John surgery — which kept him out nearly all of 2018 and 2019 — dealing mid-90s fastballs and disposing of Marlins batters as if he never had any problems in his arm.
“My first start of the year, I was definitely amped up,” Walker said after the Mets’ 3-2 walk-off win Thursday. “I just think that, definitely just being a few years removed from Tommy John now, and just been working my butt off.”
His first batter, Corey Dickerson, struck out on three pitches, with the chef’s kiss on the third, a 97 mph, four-seam fastball along the bottom right side of the strike zone.
“I was just going out there and attacking,” Walker said of his outing. “It’s kind of been my game plan since last year.”
He took a no-hitter into the fifth inning — courtesy of a tremendous leaping catch by Francisco Lindor in the fourth — and didn’t give up a hit until his 56th pitch and his 15th batter of the game. Walker ended up throwing 87 pitches and faced 23 batters in six innings.
He finished with two earned runs on four hits, two batters walked and four strikeouts.
Walker had a strong 2020 short season (2.70 ERA on 11 starts over 53.1 innings), which led to a pretty sturdy spring camp this year. His first start of the 2021 season wasn’t necessarily a surprise, but he did have an uptick in velocity, specifically with his four seamer.
Walker averaged a 95 mph fastball his first time through the Marlins lineup, something he hasn’t done since his career-best season in 2014 when he was still with the Seattle Mariners. Last year, his fastball hovered around 93 with the Mariners and Blue Jays. There was also added velocity with his cutter, sinker and slider compared to last season.
And he flashed that brilliance in front of about 8,000 of the Mets faithful, the first time fans were allowed at Citi Field since 2019.
“Just to hear the cheers again was nice,” Walker said of having fans in stands again. “Going out there, first pitch, fans are cheering, got a couple family members here to cheer me on in the stands. ... And, you know obviously getting the walk off win too.”
The long-awaited statue of Mets legend Tom Seaver finally has a dedication date, according to MLB.com.
The Franchise’s statue will officially be unveiled July 22 at Citi Field, a year after the team renamed the ballpark’s address 41 Seaver Way and announced its plans for the statue. Players this season have been wearing a No. 41 patch on this jerseys in remembrance of him.
Seaver — the greatest Met of all time with 311 victories, 3,640 career strikeouts, three Cy Young Awards and the ace of the 1969 Miracle Mets — died on Aug. 31, 2020, at the age of 75 from complications from Lyme disease, dementia and COVID-19.