GOODYEAR, Ariz. — It is a tangible sign that spring training isn’t yet over the Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker began throwing a slider Tuesday night after deciding to scrap his cutter.
It is also a tangible sign that he could shrug off a hanging slider that resulted in a two-run homer by Yan Gomes that helped power a Cleveland split squad to a 4-1 victory at Goodyear Ballpark.
"I started throwing a slider a couple of days ago," Walker said, "and I’m still trying to get the feel for it. I probably wouldn’t throw it a lot early (in the season).
"I’m still working on it. I threw a couple of good ones, I thought. Just the one I hung. Other than that, it felt pretty good."
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Walker said he revived his slider after a conversation with pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr.
"He thinks its could be a pretty good pitch for me," Walker said, "because of the way I throw my fastball. I’m aggressive with it. My change-up, too. If I stay the same with the slider, it could be a really good pitch for me."
Walker gave up one run in the first inning after failing to catch a foul pop. Gomes delivered the run with a sacrifice fly. It was still 1-0 when Walker issued a two-out walk in the third inning.
The hanging slider came after a two-out walk in the third inning. Gomes rocked it to left for a 3-0. That was all the Indians needed because right-hander Josh Tomlin overmatched the Mariners for six innings.
Tomlin permitted just three hits while striking out 10 and not walking a batter.
"He moves the ball," manager Scott Servais said. "He cuts it. He really had our right-handed hitters, especially, off-balance."
The Mariners (15-13-2) avoided a shutout on Daniel Robertson’s two-out RBI single in the ninth inning against Dan Otero.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Here’s why clubs generally don’t let pitchers try to catch pop-ups. Taijuan Walker chased after Carlos Santana’s foul pop in the first inning along the third-base line with one out and a runner on first.
Catcher Steve Clevenger could have reached the ball, but third baseman Kyle Seager was overshifted into the shortstop’s regular position. Walker overran the ball by several feet.
The ball fell untouched and was scored "no play."
And Walker is a good athlete.
"I thought I was camped under it," he said, "but it just came back. Now I know why they have the infielders call us off."
Santana capitalized on the second chance and lined a single into center, which moved Tyler Naquin from first to third. Naquin scored on Yan Gomes’ sacrifice fly.
PLUS: Lefty Mike Montgomery pitched a one-two-three seventh inning…Mayckol Guaipe bolstered his long-shot bid for a bullpen job with another scoreless inning. He has allowed one run in his last 10 2/3 innings.
MINUS: Nelson Cruz struck out in each of his three at-bats and look bad in doing so. All three were swinging strikeouts, and the latter two came with two runners on base…Steve Clevenger didn’t help his bid to secure the backup catching job. He was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and had a passed ball. Meanwhile, Rob Brantly had a pinch single in the ninth.
STAT PACK: The Mariners were 1-or-9 with runners in scoring position. They also struck out 12 times and didn’t walk once.
QUOTABLE: "I heard the whole stands laughing at me," Walker said about misplaying the pop-up in the first inning.
SHORT HOPS: Entering Tuesday’s game, Mariners reliever Donn Roach led all pitchers in both leagues with 15 2/3 innings…first-base coach Casey Candaele switched to third base because Manny Acta is sidelined by the flu. Quality assurance coach Chris Prieto replaced Candaele at first base.
UP NEXT: Felix Hernandez makes his fourth and final spring start when the Mariners play Complex co-tenant San Diego at 12:10 p.m. Wednesday at Peoria Stadium.
Note the early start time — particularly because the Mariners are tapering Hernandez’s final start to two or three innings. The game will be shown on Root Sports Northwest.
The Padres, who are breaking camp after the game, list right-hander Tyson Ross as their starter.
The Mariners previously clinched the spring version of the Vedder Cup by opening their Cactus League schedule by sweeping two games against San Diego.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners