August 13, 2022

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Cards' Walker homers twice — again — for Springfield

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Jordan Walker had his first multihomer game in nearly two months on Friday. Two days later, seeing a new pregame plan bear fruit, he did it again.

Baseball’s No. 6 overall prospect continued his surge to the end of July by driving in three runs and scoring three as Double-A Springfield fell to visiting Frisco in a wild one, 14-12.

“I just changed my approach a little bit on my pregame prep work, started using a faster velo machine and trying to get my foot down,” Walker said after his big Sunday. “I think that’s mainly it. My teammates [Masyn Winn] and [Mike Antico] have been doing the machine with me, helping me out with my swing, and sometimes you get a little lucky. Sometimes something clicks, so yeah, I’ve been just feeling good at the plate for a little bit. Hopefully I can enjoy it as long as I can.”

The tweak may seem like a minor one, but it’s paid major dividends, like Friday’s performance, Walker’s first multihomer affair since June 2.

“We usually work off our pitching machine in our cage with real baseballs,” Walker said. “That machine’s OK. It gets you ready for the game, but we started doing this thing called the iPitch and started using foam balls and cranking it up to 95 or 100 [mph]. If we can get our foot down, be on time and get our best swing off of that, we can feel pretty confident against other pitchers. It’s really helped us with our timing.”

Foam balls certainly give a different feel for a hitter. It’s one Walker likes.

“It gives off your true swing,” he said. “Foam balls won’t lie to you. If you get under it and spin it too much, it won’t go that far. If you roll over it, it’s going to hit the ground right at your feet. It really gives you a great read on what you’re doing with your swing and what you need to adjust to hit the ball hard.”

St. Louis’ top prospect belted his first homer of the day on the seventh pitch of his at-bat in the fifth, crushing an offering from southpaw Avery Weems to left-center. Three innings later, with MLB’s No. 87 overall prospect Winn aboard, he took Marc Church deep to center.

“They were both sliders, one off a lefty and one off a righty,” Walker said. “They were just mistakes. Those pitchers are usually spotting it back foot or low and away based on whether he’s a righty or lefty. I just happened to get a little lucky on pitch placement and do my thing.”

Last year’s 21st overall pick in the Draft is handling Double-A impressively. Through 80 games this year, Walker now owns a .305/.390/.514 slash line with 12 homers — five since July 14 — and 44 RBIs.

“I feel great,” he said of his first full season. “This is the best I’ve felt. I mean, I’ve only played one other season, but compared to last season, the body feels great. I just want to keep doing what I’m doing. I think this year I’m not overloading myself too much with pre-work. That’s not tiring myself out too much, so I think that’s a big change in how I’m feeling physically.”

The third baseman’s teammate Winn singled in five trips on Sunday and is slashing .277/.346/.456 through 50 Double-A games. Walker has loved holding down the left side of the infield with his fellow 20-year-old.

“It’s been loads of fun, all smiles. His energy is unmatched. The energy that he brings is what fuels the team. You can’t even imagine how fun it is to play next to him. He’s always talking, always saying something. It’s just a joy. Him and I getting drafted together, going on this journey together, it’s been really fun.”

With the MLB Trade Deadline at 5 p.m. CT on Tuesday, Walker isn’t concerned with rumors that he could be part of a Cardinals package should St. Louis make a play for someone like Washington outfielder Juan Soto. He’s just ready for whatever comes next.

“I don’t really think too much into it,” he said. “I just feel like that’s going to be too much to think about during the season when it’s already tough. Whatever happens, happens. I just want to play my game. Masyn and I, people have asked us that before, but we really don’t think too much about it.”

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