GARY | After the birth of his son Edwin Walker III, pitcher Edwin Walker took the rest of the 2013 season off.
He had been in Laredo and nursing a 7.55 ERA and consistency issues because his mind was with his wife and new child.
While he was away from baseball to spend time with his wife and new son, he called RailCats manager Greg Tagert, who at the time was in the middle of a push to the postseason.
Tagert talked Walker into trying something different.
Walker had been a starter his third season in Rookie ball with the Milwaukee Brewers, but he was reconverted to a reliever in independent baseball. That's when he connected with the RailCats the first time, in 2009.
After 16 games and 19 1/3 innings as the 'Cats best reliever that season, he was picked up by the New York Yankees in late June 2009. Walker had been with the team about two months.
It remained his favorite independent franchise.
"I figured if I ever played again, this would be my stop," Walker said. "I’ve been with a lot of indy ball teams and this is one of the most affiliated indy ball teams I’ve ever been with."
Which is perfect for Walker, as the lefty remains high on Tagert's list of RailCats.
"He’s a tremendous person and one of my favorite people to ever wear a RailCat uniform," Tagert said. "We’ve talked about players ending their careers on a good note and with him I got the sense that he wanted to keep on playing."
Walker remained in contact with Tagert in the offseason and was convinced to try to become a starter again. The RailCats rotation is unlike most others that starters walk into. Working out of the four-man, it means more starts, more off-day work and a quicker turnaround.
Tagert converted former closer Will Krout into a starter and was happy to try again with Walker.
"It’s something he hasn’t done a lot in his career, the stamina plays a big part in that," Tagert said. "I’ll look to anyone that’s an expert, is it that the older he gets he’s more suited for the rotation than the bullpen, because there’s wear and tear with both but because we do the four-man rotation it’s different."
"I just kinda go with the flow, wherever you need me, I’ll pitch there," Walker said. "He wanted to see how I looked in the rotation, so I said ‘OK.’ I started in 2011 with St. Paul and he liked what he saw so he said ‘Let’s try it again.’ I just want to pitch."
With only two starters returning from last season's rotation — Morgan Coombs and Stephen Hiscock — the manager is working through a couple more outings in spring training before making the official call on who will land where on the staff.
Walker's spot isn't guaranteed, especially if he can help eat up innings early in the season when starters are on pitch-count limitations.
Yet, he's moved with his family to the region and is happy to pull on a RailCats uniform for the second time.
"It’s pretty important that (Edwin III) gets a chance to see what I’m doing when I’m gone," Walker said.