Taijuan Walker makes a slick behind-the-back catch in his Phillies season debut

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Taijuan Walker returned to the mound for the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday and made a sensational behind-the-back catch of Padres rookie Jackson Merrill's line drive to start a double play in the second inning.

Merrill hit a shot back to the mound on a curveball and Walker, a right-hander, turned slightly and reached behind his back to make the catch. He then doubled Xander Bogaerts off first. Merrill looked perplexed as he took off his helmet and headed back to the dugout.

“Honestly, I just reacted. I put my glove behind my back and it found my glove, I guess," Walker said after getting the decision in Philadelphia's 8-6 victory that completed their first road sweep of the season. "I didn’t have time to turn and get it so I just kind of stuck my glove there and I was just as surprised as everyone else that it was in there. It was a good play. It was a double play. Double plays are always good.”

Said manager Rob Thomson: “That was something, wasn’t it? I’ve never seen that before.”

Walker was making his season debut. He opened the season on the injured list with right shoulder soreness.

The Phillies led 2-0 at the time on the first of Bryson Stott's two two-run homers. The Padres took a 3-2 lead in the third on Fernando Tatis Jr.'s RBI double and Jake Cronenworth's two-run homer. Stott homered again in the fourth.

“I was confused. I think everyone was confused,” said Stott, the second baseman. “Those are always like the weird ones as a hitter because it's like, ‘Ah, the pitcher caught it,’ but then you look and the shortstop was right there. I saw it go right at the pitcher and I looked at Trea (Turner) and then I was like, ‘Where is the ball?’ And then I watched a replay. They're pretty good at fielding their position.”

Walker was chased by pinch-hitter Luis Campusano’s three-run homer with one out in the seventh that pulled the Padres to 7-6. Walker also allowed Jake Cronenworth’s two-run shot in the third. The right-hander allowed six runs and eight hits, struck out four and walked two.