The last time Taijuan Walker suited up for the Double-A Jackson Generals, he was racing through the Mariners system, trying to make it to the Majors.
His return to Generals Park on Wednesday night came under very different circumstances.
MLB.com's No. 6 overall prospect has been to the big leagues. He's pitched in front of almost 10,000 fans at Safeco Field and he's negotiated throngs of beat reporters in front of a spacious locker. Recovering from an arm injury, he's working hard to get back there.
In his second and possibly final rehab start, Walker allowed three hits and a walk while striking out 10 batters over five scoreless innings as the Generals defeated visiting Mississippi, 4-2.
"I feel great, really good," Walker said. "My shoulder feels great and my body feels great. There's just normal soreness from pitching. I would say I'm back at 100 percent.
"Whenever they call me up, I'm ready for it. I don't want to be a hero, I don't want to be that guy that tries to push through just to get that next start. I know my own body best and if I had felt something that didn't feel right I would tell the team and get re-evaluated."
Walker reported to Spring Training with a sore right shoulder and was limited to bullpen sessions and throwing from flat ground. But in his return to Jackson -- a team for which he made 39 starts between 2012-13 -- he looked like he's ready to rejoin Seattle's rotation.
Walker's fastball generally sat between 91-92 mph in the early innings, topping out at 94 mph. He primarily threw the fastball in the opening frames, only occasionally flashing his curveball, as he did to freeze Kyle Kubitza with a 71 mph bender in the second.
The Mariners' 2011 Minor League Pitcher of the Year hit 95 mph in the fifth inning and struck out five of the final six batters he faced, including three on curveballs -- all swinging. It was his fifth game with double-digit strikeouts.
"I felt pretty good out there. All of my pitches were working and I pounded the bottom of the zone with my fastball command," Walker said. "I definitely wanted to get my fastball command established early, then I could use my off-speed pitches better."
The Mariners' top prospect needed only eight pitches to get through the first inning and threw 20 in the second. He made 14 in the third, 26 in the fourth and 17 in the fifth. In total, he threw strikes on 55 of 85 pitches before 3,671 in Jackson's home opener.
In his season debut on Friday, the 21-year-old right-hander allowed two runs on four hits and a walk while striking out seven over 4 1/3 innings for Class A Advanced High Desert. He threw 72 pitches.
Selected 43rd overall in the 2010 Draft, Walker went 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA in three Major League outings last year. He struck out 12 batters and walked four over 15 frames.
When Walker made his big league debut last Aug. 30, he became the fifth-youngest starting pitcher in Mariners history at 21 years, 17 days old.
"[Returning to the Majors] is something I have been working hard on," he said. "I want to get back there. I want to get back to Seattle and be productive and really help my team win."