The Jackson Generals' parade of top arms continued on Monday afternoon as 19-year-old Taijuan Walker, MLB.com's No. 18 prospect
, struck out eight batters over five innings in his Double-A debut. The right-hander earned the win as Jackson edged visiting Birmingham, 3-2.
Walker posted a 2.89 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 96 2/3 innings for Class A Clinton last season and was named the Mariners organization's Pitcher of the Year. This spring he bypassed the Class A Advanced California League to join fellow top prospects Danny Hultzen (No. 16) and left-hander James Paxton (No. 77) in the Generals rotation.
Paxton fanned 10 over 5 2/3 shutout innings on Saturday, earning the victory. Hultzen, the second overall pick in the 2011 Draft, took the loss in his professional debut Sunday but struck out seven over four-plus frames. The Generals' Walker got off to a curious start on Monday afternoon as Barons leadoff man Kenneth Williams ripped a double to right field but broke a cardinal rule of base running by being thrown out at third. In the second inning, Jose Martinez successfully legged out a one-out triple, later scoring on Walker's first Double-A wild pitch. The right-hander uncorked six wild pitches in his 18 starts last season.
The Generals responded in the bottom of the second with two runs of their own. Johermyn Chavez drew a two-out walk before Eric Campbell, Jesus Sucre and Gabriel Noriega delivered three consecutive singles. They added a third run when Nick Franklin doubled and scored in the third.
Walker cruised through the third and fourth, working around a leadoff single by Barons infielder Drew Garcia in the latter frame. A leadoff walk to Jared Mitchell in the fifth came back to haunt the right-hander, however, when a two-out double by Erik Morrison cut the Generals' lead to 3-2.
The youngster closed out his afternoon by freezing Williams on strikes. He recorded a pair of groundouts and four flyouts to go along with his eight strikeouts.
Jackson reliever Carter Capps gave up three straight singles to open the Birmingham sixth but retired the next three batters -- two by strikeout -- to end the threat. He tossed three shutout frames.
Stephen Pryor worked a scoreless ninth to record his third save in as many appearances.
Seven different Generals contributed a hit apiece as Jackson took four of five games in their season-opening series against the Barons.
Birmingham starter Pedro Hernandez took the loss in his first game in the White Sox organization. Acquired by the White Sox from the Padres as part of the deal that sent Carlos Quentin to San Diego, Hernandez yielded three runs on six hits and a pair of walks while striking out two over 4 2/3 innings.