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Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
TinCaps pitcher Walker Weickel appeared in 24 games and made 23 starts last season. He was 3-6 with a 5.04 ERA in 110 2/3 innings.

Pitcher sets example for new players

Weickel to start season opener, could move to next level soon

– Right-hander Walker Weickel is back for a second year with the TinCaps and he is ready to be a leader.

“Being back here I feel like I come into the clubhouse and the season with a little more responsibility on my shoulders,” Weickel said. “Being a returning guy, I feel like it is somewhat my duty to kind of show some of the new guys to Fort Wayne, the winning ways and traditions and how to go about business for a full season. A lot of these guys, it’s their first full season. A hundred and forty-four games can really stretch you out, maintaining a positive outlook the whole season and a winning attitude is going to be big for us.”

Manager Michael Collins has shown the faith he has in Weickel by naming the 2012 supplemental first-round pick the starter for tonight’s opener against Great Lakes at Parkview Field.

“He’s a guy who quite frankly could be at the next level,” Collins said. “He could’ve been there this year. He could be there next week, you never know. It is all about an opportunity and a place to play.

“He’s a returning guy. He’s good enough, and he’s a starter. Everything just falls into place for him to be the No. 1 guy. Hopefully, he will lead the way for some of these younger guys. Hopefully, they will see his first outing and give them a day or so to get settled and see what this is all about.”

Weickel appeared in 24 games and made 23 starts last season. The 20-year-old went 3-6 with a 5.04 ERA, with 82 strikeouts and 43 walks in 110 2/3 innings.

“He’s got real good stuff,” pitching coach Burt Hooton said. “He’s young. He’s learning. He had a real good spring. Hopefully, we can get him going good enough and quick enough where he doesn’t stay here very long. He’s got a huge upside, and we are hoping we can tap into it.”

Weickel has a four-seam fastball, a curveball and sinker at his disposal.

“I’ve really been working on fastball dominance to get ahead and command the strike zone and put the hitters behind,” Weickel said. “I’ve been working on developing a changeup this season, so I will be excited to get up there and utilize my new weapon.”

While Weickel has an array of pitches to showcase, one thing you will not see from him is a lot of emotion.

Weickel said he pitches best when he is calm and has always tried to stay even keel in games. It is an approach that Collins says makes sense.

“What I did see, he prepared himself very well for success,” Collins said. “He took care of his business, his routine. He came out and took the mound with what seemed to be a very good approach and a plan. He had a feel for what he wanted to do. He wasn’t just out there throwing the ball. He seemed to have an idea of exactly what he wanted to do.”

Weickel said last year’s experiences helped him with how to handle difficult outings and the rigors of a 140-game season, minimize damage during innings and trust his defense.

And all of those lessons should lead to a good second act with the TinCaps.

“Having a full year’s worth of experience is a big key, especially with maintaining arm strength and body upkeep throughout the season,” Weickel said.

“On a pitching standpoint, I’ve worked on command and control, as well as a mental approach to pitching this year that I was starting to implement more toward the end of last season and had some success and I’m trying to roll that into this year.”