MadFriars Q&A: Walker Lockett

On the surface, the 2015 season was the breakout year Walker Lockett and the Padres had been waiting for. But the former fourth-rounder, who had a 2.83 ERA through 11 starts in the Northwest League, got sent down suddenly in mid-August. We caught up with the talented righty to talk about what happened, and what he’ll build on for next year.

Between the end of the 2012 season and this April, a series of injuries limited Walker Lockett to only 7.1 innings. But the big righty, who the Padres made the fourth high school pitcher in their 2012 draft class, finally came in to camp this spring with his finger and shoulder issues behind him.

After a disappointing run in Fort Wayne, Lockett went back out to Peoria, got his mechanics in order, and then headed out to front the Tri-City pitching staff.

After the last few years, how did things feel when you got out to spring training this year?
Walker Lockett: I was a lot more comfortable. This was my third spring training, so I was kind of used to how things went. We had a new set of guys, so I knew it didn’t really matter that I did in the past, I could make a good first impression on these guys, and I had a pretty good spring.

You went out to the Midwest League and had that great first start, but things went sideways after that. What was going on out there?
Walker Lockett: I felt like the first start, my adrenaline was up and I was just pumped up and that kept me in the game. But I felt like my pitching mechanics… instead of staying back on the mound, I started falling, and getting too tall and losing velocity, so I think it was just a combination of things. I just wasn’t very comfortable on the mound. It took me a couple starts going back to extended spring training to figure it out – and we have some good coaches down there as also. I was with Nellie Cruz and Ben Fritz, who helped me out.

So what was your focus point out there and what helped you get ready to head back out?
Walker Lockett: I think when you go down to extended, it’s not really result-based. You need to be focusing on yourself – am I actually pitching or am I just going out there throwing it and hoping something goes my way? And that’s really what I learned this year, I feel like I became a better pitcher versus just going out there and throwing whatever they put down. You’ve definitely got to – obviously guys are soured and nobody wants to get sent down – you’ve just got to look at it as a step back, and then two steps forward type of thing.

You definitely seem to have taken those two steps forward when you got up to Tri-City. That must have felt really positive?
Walker Lockett: It felt great. I enjoyed pitching up there this summer and enjoyed playing with all the guys. I just got my mind right in extended and everything just started clicking. I think it all came together up there and I was able to have a pretty good season up there.

In terms of your repertoire, what are you working with at this point?
Walker Lockett: I started throwing my four-seamer again. I used to throw all two-seams, but I started throwing my four-seam again. And it will start to cut when I get around it, which makes it nasty, but it’s definitely something I want to command a little better. So I started throwing that, and the two-seam as well. With the four-seam, I was at 93 or 94.

I had a great feel for my slider this year. Pretty much, Obviously you’re not going to have your best pitch every pitch every game, but I felt like I had it more times than not. I was able – if I could get ahead in the count, I felt like I could just bury a slider. Even when you get through the lineup a couple of times in that league, you see some of those guys swing – they’re coming out of their shoes on off-speed and they can’t touch it, so why not throw them a slider just to see what they’re going to do?

Were you just getting swings and misses with it, or were you able to throw it for a called strike?
Walker Lockett: I was throwing it for called strike as well. The only thing was, whenever I would try to make it break harder and get nastier, I’d get around it a little bit and leave it up, so. But I definitely feel like that was one my best pitch this year.

So, you’re rolling along and leading the staff. What happened that led to your demotion?
Walker Lockett: It was that I missed curfew when we were in Tri-Cities. They chose to send me and another guy back. It’s on me. I broke one of our policies. They had told us in spring training and they’d told us before, so they decided to send us back. I take responsibility for my actions. I definitely wasn’t planning on going back to Arizona, but it is what it is.

What do you take on for this offseason and into next spring training to try to re-establish your position with the organization and grow from the experience?
Walker Lockett: I just try to take the good that happened this year and take that as a positive and also learn from what happened and why I got sent back to Arizona. I need to take a little more responsibility and grow up a little basically. So I just plan on doing that, be a little more mature and be ready for spring training. I’ve already talked to [Mark] Prior [the Padres Minor League Pitching Coordinator] and those guys understand about what happened and we’ve moved on. So I’ve just got to be ready.

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