HOUSTON (AP) — Top prospect Taijuan Walker will make his major league debut for Seattle on Friday, taking on the Houston Astros less than three weeks after turning 21.
It's quite the impressive feat for Walker, who was selected in the first round of the 2010 draft. But the talented right-hander is a bit behind the pace of teammate Felix Hernandez, who pitched in his first major league game at age 19.
Walker, who started the season at Double-A Jackson before being promoted to Triple-A Tacoma, got a welcome and a hug from Hernandez on Thursday. Hernandez hadn't had time to chat with Walker yet, but the ace was ready if the youngster asked for any advice.
"You've just got to be relaxed, and after you throw the first pitch everything's going to go away," Hernandez said.
Walker, who is thought to be among the top prospects in the sport, says he knows he'll be nervous in the first inning, but hopes he calms down after that.
He went 4-7 with a 2.46 ERA in 14 starts at Double A and 5-3 with a 3.61 ERA in 11 starts in Triple A. He was dominant in his last two starts, going 2-0 with a sparkling 0.82 ERA.
General manager Jack Zduriencik said there were many factors that went in to bringing him up, but discussions with minor league pitching coaches convinced him Walker was ready.
"This kid's got great stuff, he's a fabulous athlete," Zduriencik said. "He's done a really great job maturing, growing up, handling the things given to him this year and you just make a decision on what you think is best for him and the organization."
Walker went through some struggles last season in Double A, and said he spent the early part of this season working on refining his pitches.