PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) Taijuan Walker struck out five in three innings, allowing a run on three hits in the Seattle Mariners’ 7-5 win over a Kansas City Royals split squad Wednesday.
Walker is likely destined for Seattle’s rotation after the 23-year-old went 11-8 last season, his first full campaign in the majors.
“Established the fastball early, getting ahead early and was able to work my breaking ball how I wanted to,” Walker said.
Drew Butera homered, singled and drove in two runs for the Royals. Butera’s third-inning homer off Walker hit the base of the batter’s eye in center field.
Butera is trying to win the backup catcher job and had been hitless in eight at-bats entering Wednesday.
“I was looking for something middle of the plate. Just trying to see it,” Butera said. “Nothing’s ever given in this game, so I feel like every time you step on the field you always have to earn your spot, and that’s the way I go about it.”
Stefen Romero, the 2012 Mariners minor league player of the year, drove in a run with a double in the sixth. Romero, who played in the outfield, is 6 for 11 in six games.
“He’s off to a good start this spring,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We’re going to keep giving him plenty of at-bats and probably move him some to first base a little bit, too.”
FELIX THROWS LIVE BP
Mariners ace Felix Hernandez is on track to start his first spring training game on March 14 after pitching to minor-league hitters on Wednesday morning. Beginning Monday, he’ll build up to Opening Day by pitching in games every five days, Servais said.
NASCAR driver Clint Bowyer, a Kansas native, visited Royals spring training on Wednesday morning and took batting practice. He’s in town for a Sprint Cup race near Phoenix this weekend.
Royals: LHP Matt Strahm made his first start and second appearance of spring training, getting the call with the Royals in split-squad mode. He’s a top-10 prospect in the organization and figures to open the season in the minors. Strahm retired the side twice with two strikeouts but didn’t finish the third inning, and his throwing error opened the door for the unearned runs he allowed.
Mariners: Walker said he felt even the home run he allowed was a good pitch. He sought to induce ground balls and felt Wednesday was a big step forward, “especially with the breaking ball,” he said.
Mariners: LHP Danny Hultzen, the second overall pick in the 2011 draft who has had two left shoulder surgeries and missed much of last season with a strain of that shoulder, suffered a setback recently and is out indefinitely with shoulder stiffness. … Relievers Evan Scribner and Ryan Cook won’t appear in a game anytime soon, and Cook’s lat strain will keep him out longer than Scribner.
Royals: Ian Kennedy is scheduled for his second spring training start on Thursday when the Royals play the Chicago White Sox in Glendale, Ariz.