Brandon Inge makes a diving play on a hit by Chicago's Anthony Rizzo in the first inning Sunday. Inge started in place of Neil Walker, who says cramps are bothering him.
By Michael Sanserino Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
CHICAGO -- Neil Walker said he does not believe the injury that caused him to miss part of a game Saturday and the entire game Sunday against the Chicago Cubs is serious.
But he and the Pirates are being cautions with Walker's sore right side.
"I'm hoping that this will subside here in the next few days," he said.
Walker said he started feeling cramps in his right side in the Pirates' 4-1 loss Saturday to the Cubs. He played with the injury in the field but pulled himself from the game in the fifth inning before his turn came up in the lineup, fearing he might worsen the injury.
"If I were to continue swinging I think it would have gotten a lot worse," he said. "I want to be very cautious with it right now so I don't blow something out that will cost me the whole season."
He will have an MRI today in Pittsburgh to determine exactly what is bothering him. As a switch-hitter, it is especially important for Walker to be as strong as possible on both sides of his torso.
Inge starts for Walker
The Pirates started Brandon Inge in Walker's place Sunday instead of moving Jordy Mercer from shortstop to second base and putting former starting shortstop Clint Barmes on the field.
Manager Clint Hurdle said he wanted to continue to give Mercer consistent playing time at short. But he also said it was important for Inge, who entered Sunday hitting .198, to get some at-bats to try to find a spark in his offensive game.
"Inge needs to get some at-bats to stay fresh, to be able to have a chance to produce," Hurdle said.
Before this season, Inge had never been utilized as a bench player. In his previous 12 seasons, Inge averaged 115 starts per year. This year, he has made 21 starts, including Sunday, and has been brought into 26 other games.
"When he gets consistent at-bats, he's shown the ability to produce runs," Hurdle said. "The challenge as you get older is if an opportunity doesn't exist for you to play every day, can you transition to the bench? He's done it within the clubhouse, within the challenges for the game.
"The at-bat part of it has been the one challenge."
Hurdle credited Inge for being an asset in the field, where he has played five positions error-free this year.
But if Inge is unable to gain some traction at the plate, it is possible the Pirates will turn to another player for a bench bat.
Reid makes room for Burnett
The Pirates activated A.J. Burnett (strained right calf) from the disabled list before his start Sunday and optioned right-handed reliever Ryan Reid to Class AAA Indianapolis.
Reid, 28, made his major league debut June 3 against Atlanta and has a 1.64 ERA in seven appearances and even picked up a save. He had spent seven full seasons in the minor leagues in the Tampa Bay Rays organization before the Pirates signed him to a minor league deal in the offseason.
"You can get lost in the shuffle where he was. They've got a whole bunch of good pitchers over there. Maybe a guy of his age gets pushed to the side."
Reid showed versatility in his outings, pitching multiple innings in some and brief appearances in others.
"A lot of guys, they don't know what to expect, and they really don't know what it's all about," Hurdle said. "He's been a career minor leaguer. He got up here, and he got to watch and play and perform."
Burnett made his previous start June 8 at Wrigley Field before a sore calf sent him to the disabled list June 14, retroactive to June 8. He did not make any rehabilitation appearances before Sunday.
Derby for Alvarez?
One day after being named an All-Star for the first time in his career, Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez played coy when asked if he would entertain an invitation to participate in the Home Run Derby.
"We'll see when the situation presents itself," he said.