The Oakland A's announced on Wednesday that they had claimed right-hander Marcus Walden off of waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays. Walden was designated for assignment by Toronto yesterday. He has been optioned to Triple-A Sacramento.
Walden is a Fresno native who was drafted by the Blue Jays in the ninth round out of community college in 2007. He has spent his entire career in the Blue Jays' organization. For most of that career, Walden has been a starter, although he was in the Triple-A Buffalo bullpen before being DFA'd.
Last season, Walden made 26 starts for Double-A New Hampshire. He had a 3.71 ERA and an 88:50 K:BB in 162.2 innings pitched. An extreme groundball pitcher, he allowed just nine homeruns and had a 2.07 GO/AO. His best season as a pro came in 2012, when he posted a 2.97 ERA in 139.1 innings pitched at the Low-A and High-A level.
This was the first season for Walden at the Triple-A level. It's not clear whether the A's will use him as a starter or a reliever in Sacramento. The River Cats currently have a spot open in the rotation with Matt Buschmann landing on the disabled list.
Walden is a survivor of both nerve replacement surgery (August 2009) and Tommy John surgery (April 2010) in his right elbow. His sinker is his best pitch, and he also has a slurvy breaking ball. He isn't a particularly hard thrower, with his fastball sitting in the 88-91 MPH range, and he doesn't strike-out a lot of batters. But he does induce a lot of groundballs.
How Walden ended up being on the Toronto 40-man roster is an interesting story. He began the year as a non-roster player at Triple-A. The Blue Jays designated Jeremy Jeffress for assignment on April 5. They intended to recall a different pitcher, but they had to wait 10 days to do so because the other pitcher had been optioned to Triple-A before the start of Opening Day. In lieu of adding that other pitcher (who ended up being former A's reliever Neil Wagner) the Blue Jays purchased Walden's contract on April 5th and he spent four days on the Toronto roster before being sent back to Triple-A. He didn't appear in a game, and he was designated for assignment on Tuesday.
Right-hander Zach Neal will make his first start for Sacramento on Wednesday. Neal was promoted from Double-A Midland this week to replace Joe Blanton in the River Cats' rotation. Neal tossed 10 innings in two starts for Midland this season and he didn't allow an earned run.