MEMPHIS, Tenn. – More than a month has passed since the St. Louis Cardinals abruptly optioned young star Jordan Walker to the minor leagues, and it’s unclear when he might rejoin the big-league club.
Walker, who just turned 21 years old last week, earned his MLB call in late-March with an impressive spring training. He made his debut on Opening Day and began his career with a record-tying 12-game hitting streak among 20-year-olds. His first run came with a bit of a learning curve, and he’s now trying to regain top form in Triple-A Memphis.
Before his option, Walker spent several days working with Cardinals’ hitting coach Turner Ward, specifically asked to adjust his posture and rotation. The Cardinals hoped to reduce some habits, like ground-ball outs and chasing low pitches, that became a bit more common once Walker’s hitting streak ended.
Walker, speaking to WMAC’s Matt Infield and other Memphis sports media members, recently said that’s no longer part of the plan. At least the need to force the ball into the air more than on the ground.
“I was told to start hitting the ball in the air, and that kind of got to me a little bit, about trying to force the ball into the air a little too much,” said Walker. “That would force myself to do things I don’t usually do. It’s just about being more relaxed and not thinking about it at the plate.”
Walker has been hitting better in recent weeks compared to his first few weeks in Memphis. Through 14 games, he was hitting just .154 with two home runs and 4 RBI. He’s made some gradual improvements, hitting .264 with two home runs and 8 RBI over his last 15 games.
Within his recent uptick includes a three-hit game on May 23 in which Walker produced three hits, one home run and two ground ball singles. He also drove in three runs that game.
“There’s no point if I try to hit the ball in the air if I’m not hitting the ball at all,” said Walker. “I might as well hit the ball hard, and if it’s on the ground, it’s on the ground. I’m trying to find a hole, maybe drive a run in,”
Walker believes his power, a tool that almost landed him a rare 20-20 season in the minors last year, will return more naturally without forcing balls into the air.
“I feel like as I go through the season, it’s going to get more in the air, just like I did last year,” said Walker. “So I just got to trust myself and trust how my swing has been the past three years I’ve been in the organization.”
Walker, a 2020 first-round pick of the Cardinals touted among baseball’s top prospects, also told WMC he’s having fun during his oddly-timed stint in Memphis, though getting back and sticking in the big leagues is his ultimate goal.
Cardinals manager Oli Marmol said last month it would be “crazy” to think that Walker wouldn’t be returning to the big league club at somepoint, though did not specify a timetable. Cardinals executive Mike Girsch told Bally Sports Midwest last week that Walker is “moving in the right direction,” though his timeline to return to St. Louis is still being determined.