Jameson Taillon's first professional opponent was the Hagerstown Suns, but his biggest adversary Wednesday night was an old-fashioned adrenalin rush.
As it turns out, there's nothing any coach, teammate or a $6.5 million bonus can do to keep a 19-year-old prospect from getting excited for his debut. That's part of the reason Taillon nearly didn't get out of the first inning.
But he did, and the No. 2 pick in the 2010 baseball draft left his West Virginia Power team with a 7-1 lead in a game suspended by rain.
"It's good to get it out of the way," Taillon said. "I didn't throw as good as I was hoping, but I fought through some adversity with the weather and not really feeling my delivery the first inning, missing up. But I think we've got a good club and it's going to be fun.
Under a light, steady rain that muddied the mound, the 6-foot-6 right-hander from The Woodlands, Texas, needed 45 pitches to get through two innings. He walked two in the first inning, including 2010 No. 1 draft pick Bryce Harper, and yielded three hits.
Despite his 30 strikes and a fastball that unofficially hit 100 mph on one pitch, he did not ring up a strikeout.
After Taillon gave up a run-scoring double by David Freitas and then his second walk, he was on the verge of an early hook. With the bases loaded and one out, Power pitching coach Jeff Johnson visited Taillon, who was pushing the 30-pitch mark - a single-inning number that could have ended his night.
"He probably had maybe one more hitter," Johnson said. "I made sure the mound was OK, because I knew it was raining, and he said it was fine. I said, 'You've got to get over one pitch and get two outs,' and he did it."
Taillon did that by getting Mills Rogers to chop into a routine 6-4-3 double play. The Suns got a leadoff single in the second from Jason Martinson, but nothing else.
"He threw some good pitches tonight," Johnson said. "The second inning was better, got over the ball downhill much easier, it looked like."
A crowd of maybe 1,000 watched at Appalachian Power Park, a number no doubt depressed by an ominous forecast. Also in attendance were several Pirates officials, writers and photographers from both Pittsburgh papers, a writer from Roanoke, Va., and a representative of Root Sports Pittsburgh, which set up a studio-like postgame interview.
The first Hagerstown batter, Blake Kelso, may have given Taillon an appropriate initiation by extending the at-bat with four foul balls. Kelso belted the first pitch to deep short, where Drew Maggi made a diving stop but couldn't hold on for the throw.
Two batters later, Harper strolled to the plate with one out, in what was certainly the first $16.4 million battle in Charleston baseball history. As the No. 1 pick in last year's draft, Harper signed a five-year, $9.9 million contract with the Washington Nationals.