Walker played 44 games with the Padres last year after arriving in a trade deadline deal with the Cubs. He batted .278 overall, with nine homers and 53 RBIs, and is a .289 career hitter.
The club's two other potential arbitration cases were settled when shortstop Khalil Greene agreed to a $2.25 million contract for 2007, and catcher Josh Bard accepted a $1.05 million, one-year deal.
Seemingly every pitcher on the staff would like a private session with Trevor Hoffman, master of the art of pitching and, specifically, the changeup. Count newcomer Scott Strickland, a candidate for a middle-relief job, among the aspiring disciples.
"I'm a fastball/slider pitcher, and I've added a change the last couple years," the right-hander said. "It'd be stupid of me not to pick [Hoffman's] brain with that."
Strickland, who turns 31 on April 26, has appeared in 236 Major League games. He's 12-21 with a 3.34 ERA, striking out 243 while walking 111 in 240 innings. He was 5-2 last year with a 2.09 ERA for Pittsburgh's Triple-A affiliate, Indianapolis, with 70 K's and only 15 walks in 73 1/3 innings.
"Everyone is different in how they throw it," Strickland said of the changeup, a pitch highly valued by the Padres organization. "It depends on your hands. Mine are small, so I have it in the base of my fingers, using my pointer finger to guide it on the release. Last year it was a huge pitch for me. The ultimate is being able to throw it 3-2, bases loaded, two outs. I feel like I'm at that point now."
A Houston native who studied criminology and psychology at the University of New Mexico, Strickland is familiar with several new teammates. He played alongside Geoff Blum in Montreal, and with Mike Cameron and Shawn Estes when he was with the New York Mets.
News and features:
Spring Training info:
Kouzmanoff says club is ready: 350K
Padres game highlights, March 31: 350K
Bud Black interview: 350K
Padres highlights: 350K
Peavy on starting Opening Day: 350K
Padres game highlights, March 29: 350K
As for the crowded competition for three or four middle-relief roles, Strickland said he's concerned only with what he can control -- his pitches.
"If I've got one eye on the catcher's mitt and the other on somebody watching, it's no good," he said. "I'll just take what I have as far as I can."
Manager Bud Black is stressing to his club the overriding importance of the pitcher-catcher relationship, drawing on his experiences as a pitcher for 15 Major League seasons and his seven years as the Angels' pitching coach.
"Pitchers and catchers are the focal point of the game," Black said. "They're the guys zeroed in on every pitch. The importance of game-calling, keeping pitchers under control, handling an entire staff ... that's vital to a team's success.
"From what I can tell, guys in that room have that engaging personality that can help with that. You want your players talking baseball."
Black said he's been impressed with the attitudes of catchers Josh Bard, Rob Bowen and Todd Greene. The club is not yet sure if it will carry two or three receivers.
All signs go:
Black was pleased with what he saw in Sunday's second workout of pitchers and catchers, reporting no sore arms after the initial session on Saturday.
"The guys who threw on consecutive days were fine, and the players looked focused again," Black said, noting that he doesn't want anybody doing too much too soon. "You don't need on Feb. 18 to go with maximum effort. They're mainly working on fastball command, changeup."