THE FACTS: Did right-hander Taijuan Walker lock down the final spot in the Mariners’ rotation Wednesday night by pitching six scoreless — and dominant — innings against the Cubs?
Manager Lloyd McClendon shook his head.
What more does Walker have to do?
“Stay consistent; keep pitching well,” McClendon said. “He threw up a lot of zeroes and pitched well. He fatigued a little bit in the sixth, but I thought he threw the ball extremely well.”
Walker gave up just two hits, both singles, while walking one and striking out six. He threw 57 of 82 pitches for strikes and extended his spring scoreless streak to 18 innings through five starts.
“It feels good,” Walker said. “I’m just trying to go out there and attack, really. Everything feels really good. Mechanics, arm, everything.”
PLAY OF THE GAME: Walker’s only jam came in the sixth when he allowed a walk and a single with one out. Dexter Fowler then sent a sharp grounder up the middle.
Second baseman Robinson Cano backhanded the ball and flipped it to shortstop Brad Miller, who threw to first for the out.
PLUS: Mike Zunino marked his 24th birthday with a homer to right field on an off-speed pitch in the fifth inning from Cubs starter Travis Wood…Robinson Cano had a single that set up the Mariners’ first run in the first and added a RBI double in the fifth that made it 3-0…Closer Fernando Rodney pitched a scoreless seventh inning and has not allowed a run in six one-inning outings.
MINUS: There wasn’t much not to like until the ninth inning, when reliever Dominic Leone permitted four of the first five batters to reach safely. The Cubs scored twice, but Leone stranded the tying and go-ahead runs by retiring the final two hitters.
JOB BATTLES: Leone has four scoreless outings this spring, but he’s allowed nine runs and eight hits over 1 1/3 innings in his other two appearances. The guy he might be battling for spot, Carson Smith, retired the only two batters he faced in the eighth. Smith has four scoreless outings in his last five appearances…Lefty Tyler Olson retired the only batter he faced and has not allowed an earned run in 8 1/3 innings….Reliever Danny Farquhar shifted to a minor-league game Wednesday and worked a one-two-three inning with two strikeouts.
QUOTABLE: “I told (Walker) that if he can stay at that effort level,” Zunino said, “that’s all he needs. Sometimes, guys get in a habit where they’re throwing easy like that and getting outs — and then they want to do more.”
EXTRA INNINGS: Shortstop Chris Taylor is already fielding grounders in workouts after suffering a broken right wrist on March 13 when hit by a foul. He was expected to miss four-to-six weeks…Catcher Jesus Sucre, who left Sunday’s game because of a sore hip, played the final three innings…Zunino wasn’t the only catcher who marked a birthday on Wednesday. Still-fan-favorite Dan Wilson turned 46.
UP NEXT: The Mariners have their second and final split-squad doubleheader Thursday when one squad plays Kansas City at Peoria Stadium and the other travels to Maryvale to play Milwaukee.
Both games start at 1:05 p.m.
Felix Hernandez will start against the Royals, who list right-hander Jeremy Guthrie as their starter. Roenis Elias will start against the Brewers, who plan to start right-hander Mike Fiers.