D-backs’ Walker dominates again in final spring tuneup
PHOENIX (AP) — Taijuan Walker ended his excellent spring training on a high note, pitching five scoreless innings to help the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Cleveland Indians 6-3 on Thursday night.
Walker struck out four and allowed four hits in the penultimate exhibition game for both teams.
Walker finished the spring with a 3.29 ERA, 32 strikeouts and two walks over 27 1/3 innings. He is on schedule to face the San Francisco Giants next Wednesday in Arizona’s third game.
“Taijuan set a very good tone. Allowed us to play some downhill baseball, had a couple of shutdown innings,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “Threw the ball very well.”
Lovullo announced the starting rotation after the game. Zack Greinke is the opening day starter Sunday against San Francisco, followed by left-hander Patrick Corbin, Walker, lefty Robbie Ray and right-hander Shelby Miller.
The Diamondbacks after the game selected the contract of right-handed reliever J.J. Hoover, which leaves one more spot to fill in the bullpen, likely between Silvino Bracho and Andrew Chafin. All three relievers in the competition pitched in the same inning Thursday.
“There are very strong arguments for both candidates,” Lovullo said. “They’ve made it very hard on us.”
Walker got run support from Jake Lamb, who hit a wind-blown triple that drove in two runs in the fifth inning. Yasmany Tomas, who entered the game with one hit this spring, was hitless but drove in two runs.
The 2016 AL champion Indians couldn’t score off Walker, but they did get another long look at outfielder Michael Brantley, who has been playing in consecutive games in recent days to get ready for opening day. Brantley is coming off right shoulder surgery last year. He had a hit and RBI.
Bradley will get Friday off.
“He’s feeling good. He was allowed to have another at-bat. I just thought he’s played three in a row,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He’s swinging the bat good. I don’t want him to do more than the other guys. That’s not fair, either. More importantly he feels good about himself.”
Yandy Diaz, a 25-year-old rookie from Cuba who started at third base, was told he made Cleveland’s major league roster before the game. Diaz is batting .444 in 19 games this spring, including Thursday’s 2 for 3 and an RBI. His cause was aided by an injury to infielder Jason Kipnis, who could miss the first month of the season.
Carlos Santana played right field for the Indians in preparation for when Cleveland plays Arizona in a regular-season series next weekend without a designated hitter. He went 2 for 4.
“I thought he did great. The wind was howling,” Francona said. “That (right field) was probably the toughest place to be. It’s nice to know if we do that, which we might. I’m proud of him for the want to and putting the effort into it.”
The Diamondbacks announced that Sunday’s season opener is sold out. The ceremonial first pitch will be thrown by former Phoenix Sun, Final Four hero with Duke and two-time NCAA champion Grant Hill. Diamondbacks opening day will coincide with Final Four events happening in downtown Phoenix.
Miller will pitch a simulated game on Saturday, which puts him in line to start next Friday against Cleveland.
Cleveland optioned infielders Erik Gonzalez and Giovanny Urshela to Triple-A Columbus, which meant utility man Michael Martinez made the opening day roster. Martinez is hitting .357 in 21 games this spring. Arizona sent C Oscar Hernandez to Double-A Reno and re-assigned LHP T.J. McFarland to minor-league camp.
Indians: Kipnis is expected to be ready to play in three or four weeks as he returns from right shoulder inflammation. ... OF Lonnie Chisenhall (right shoulder) will begin the season on the 10-day disabled list. ... OF Daniel Robertson is out indefinitely after suffering a left hamstring injury in Tuesday’s game.
Indians: RHP Travis Banwart pitches the exhibition finale for Cleveland on Friday night before the team heads to Texas to open the regular season.
Diamondbacks: Ray makes his final start of spring training when he faces the Indians on Friday. Ray has posted a 4.79 ERA this spring.