PEORIA, Arizona -- Taijuan Walker was selected in the supplemental portion of the first round of the 2010 draft -- just six picks before Mike Olt.
I don't recall the Cubs facing him in previous spring training contests, but they sure know who he is now. Walker threw six innings and allowed just two singles and a walk and his Mariners held on for a 3-2 win over the Cubs Wednesday night in front of a full house (11,224) at Peoria Stadium.
Walker, who turned 22 last August, is expected to be one of the key men in Seattle's rotation this year and one of the reasons some are making them the "sexy" pick to make a long run through the American League playoffs.
Travis Wood, his mound opponent, didn't pitch badly. Wood got nicked for a run in the first inning, then settled down until the fifth when a home run by Mike Zunino made it 2-0. A single and double made it 3-0, and that additional run proved important. Wood, incidentally, was the Cubs hitter who drew the walk off Walker, the only Cubs base on balls of the game. Joe Maddon hit Wood eighth in this game, something we're likely to see fairly often this summer, and the walk was in the top of the sixth. Wood was allowed to bat, even though he was lifted in the bottom of the inning for Pedro Strop.
Strop, Phil Coke and Hector Rondon all had good outings, combining for one hit and two walks allowed in three innings. It seems clear that Coke will make the 25-man-roster, and we're likely to see some combination of those three many times during the late innings in the regular season.
The Cubs scratched across a pair of runs off Mariners reliever Dominic Leone, who I confess I wasn't familar with before last night, though he had a fine rookie season with Seattle in 2014 (2.17 ERA, 1.161 WHIP, 1.5 bWAR in 57 games). Arismendy Alcantara singled. Matt Szczur followed with a triple to deep center field, scoring Mendy. Szczur scored in what should have been an infield out; the ball was bobbled by shortstop Chris Mariscal and Albert Almora reached, representing the tying run. One out later, Mike Baxter singled, but that's all the Cubs could do as Jonathan Herrera flied to left and Chris Valaika struck out to end it.
In the game thread, I noted that some of you thought Kris Bryant -- who was on the travel roster -- should have batted for Valaika. Not only did that not happen, but he wasn't on deck to bat for Rondon, whose spot in the batting order followed Valaika. Anthony Giansanti would have batted if Valaika had reached base. As it turned out, with Valaika striking out, this was the first game I've seen all spring where no one from the minor-league camp appeared at all. The Cubs still officially have 52 players in camp and you'd think roster cuts would be coming soon.
With Walker's pitching clinic ongoing, the game moved swiftly and was the Cubs' second-fastest game of the Cactus League season, two hours and 19 minutes.
The Cubs will play the Angels Thursday in a game that starts at an unusual time -- 4:05 p.m. Arizona time, 6 p.m. CT. Why the odd time, you ask? Likely because this will be the Cubs' only appearance on ESPN this spring, and the Worldwide Leader probably asked for this start time so they can show it in East Coast prime time -- 7 p.m. ET. Jon Lester, who was originally on target to start this one, will throw in a minor-league game at 10 a.m. Arizona time instead. Eric Jokisch gets the call against the Angels' Jered Weaver.