As Orioles rookie first baseman Christian Walker strove this season to develop as a power hitter and solidify his future at first base, a position where power is paramount, he never strayed from the hitting approach that had earned him acclaim.
Hitters desperate for power can end up getting pull-happy and sacrifice the bat-to-ball skills that had carried them so far, and Walker, in search of over-the-fence power, continued to focus his approach on hitting up the middle of the field.
He did just that on a 1-2 slider from Boston Red Sox starter Rubby De La Rosa on Saturday, depositing the pitch to right-center field for his first major league home run a 7-2 win.
“It’s a big confidence booster,” Walker said. “It’s easy to continue working on the things I’ve been working on when I’ve been successful and things are working out in my favor.”
Walker’s home run was his second hit of the night and the third of his brief big league career. He’s batting .273 (3-for-11) since his call-up, after batting .288 with 26 home runs and 96 RBIs in 139 games between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk.
He was scheduled to get the day off Saturday but took the spot in the lineup of Steve Pearce, who was given the night off with right wrist soreness. Walker was told during batting practice that he would be starting.
“I wasn’t originally in the lineup, but I got the opportunity to get in there and maybe earn some more at-bats, and luckily, it worked out in my favor,” Walker said.
Pearce expects to be out several days, which will give Walker an extended look at first base.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter was happy to see Walker’s power announce itself during the game.
“You like to see them happen at nine o'clock instead of five o'clock” at night, Showalter said. “We used to call them five-o'clock hitters. You all have to figure out exactly what time it was. What a big moment for him. I'm sure he may be a little more outward about it when he talks to you all, but I kind of liked the way he's handled success so far.”