On Sunday, manager Lloyd McClendon announced that the young, hard-throwing right-hander would get the start in the Mariners’ first Cactus League game — the annual charity game against the San Diego Padres — their neighbors at Peoria Sports Complex.

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PEORIA, Ariz. — The competition officially begins for Taijuan Walker and the Mariners on Wednesday.

On Sunday, manager Lloyd McClendon announced that the young, hard-throwing right-hander would get the start in the Mariners’ first Cactus League game — the annual charity game against the San Diego Padres — their neighbors at Peoria Sports Complex.

It’s quite a change for Walker compared to last spring when he was sidelined with a shoulder injury.

“I wasn’t available to do anything,” Walker said. “I wasn’t even playing catch. So to be able to start a game in spring and actually have a spring training feels good.”

San Diego has announced that 38-year-old veteran right-hander Jason Lane will get the start. The 22-year-old Walker was age 9 when Lane made his big-league debut.

In the midst of a competition for the final spot in the starting rotation with Roenis Elias and possibly Erasmo Ramirez, Walker gets to make the first impression.

It’s kind of an odd position to be in for those pitchers. Their first games of the spring will likely be two innings or around 25 pitches. There are plenty of things to work on, and Cactus League results (particularly that first outing) won’t be the only determinant in the competition. But for Walker, there is a desire to pitch well any time he steps on the mound, no matter the circumstances.

“I’m going to treat it like a (real) game,” he said. “It’s a competition too. So I’m going out there always trying to do the best I can.”

One thing to watch is the addition of a slider to his repertoire. Walker said he scrapped the cut fastball that he’d been using on occasion the past two seasons for the slider. It gives him another breaking pitch to go with his slower curveball. The similarities in throwing the cutter and slider should make the transition somewhat easier. Walker likes the action on the slider compared to the cutter

“There’s more depth to it and more break to it,” he said.

It seems to be effective. Now it’s just finding consistency with the pitch.

“I threw it live in BP the other day,” he said. “The first couple I threw were kind of shaky, but after that it worked really good.”

Also scheduled to pitch in that Cactus League opener are Sam Gaviglio, Mike Kickham, David Rollins, Rafael Perez, Carson Smith and Dominic Leone.

Besides Walker, McClendon announced the probable starters for the following four days of Cactus League games, which are subject to change.

Thursday vs. Padres — Roenis Elias

Friday at the Dodgers — Erasmo Ramirez

Saturday (split squad) vs. Arizona — Hisashi Iwakuma

Saturday (split squad) at CWS — Jordan Pries

Sunday at Cincinnati — J.A. Happ

Rain, rain go away

A rare stretch of gray skies and rain in the Phoenix area had teams scrambling to amend workout plans. The Mariners trimmed their Sunday workout slightly to make sure pitchers got in their bullpen sessions and live batting practice work before any rain came.

Manager Lloyd McClendon had planned to hold an intrasquad game Monday. But that is in doubt with forecasts calling for steady rain all day. Erasmo Ramirez and Jordan Pries were scheduled to start the game with Charlie Furbush, Lucas Luetge, Stephen Landazuri, Mark Lowe, Joe Saunders, Justin Germano, Tyler Olson and Forrest Snow all scheduled to pitch.

The forecast is improved for Tuesday and Wednesday’s Cactus League opener is supposed to be sunny with temps in the 70s.