Pirates notebook: Walker takes Inge's roster spot

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WASHINGTON -- A few days ago, Brandon Inge sat down for a meeting with manager Clint Hurdle and delivered a message he believed Hurdle needed to hear.

"If you feel like you can make your team better by someone else, I said go for it," Inge said.

"That's fine. In any way I wasn't being sarcastic.

"I just legitimately care about these guys."

The Pirates designated Inge for assignment Tuesday, making room for the return of Neil Walker (oblique) from the disabled list.

Inge said he was trying to be a professional about things and work in the best interest for a group of "guys in this clubhouse that I consider family."

That meeting gave Pirates management the cover they needed to make a move that might be unpopular in the clubhouse but was in the best interest of the product.

Inge, once an All-Star with the Detroit Tigers, was hitting .181 this season, his first year as a full-time bench player. The Pirates signed him to a minor league contract before the start of spring training and added him to the major league roster ahead of opening day.

His major league contract was worth $1.25 million.

The Pirates informed Inge of their decision early Tuesday, in case he wished to pack up and leave the clubhouse before his teammates and reporters arrived.

But Inge stayed to wish his former teammates well.

He had a long talk with Pedro Alvarez, with whom he had developed a good friendship.

He said he had no interest in leaving before saying goodbye to his teammates.

"For one, I feel like it's cowardly," he said. "Two, I wasn't brought up that way. I pay my respects to any team. Obviously, at this time I'm being sent out, but I've been given a great opportunity by this team, as well, to be a part of this for so long."

Inge said he will explore other opportunities but could not say if he would consider a minor league assignment to Class AAA Indianapolis if he clears waivers.

"I like playing, love playing the game, love being around the guys," he said.

"But I love playing more than anything. I wouldn't still be trying to do it at this point if I didn't."

Morton vs. left-handers

Through his first seven starts this season, Charlie Morton has been more effective against left-handed batters than in past seasons. Handling left-handed batters has been the biggest challenge in his major league career.

Left-handers are hitting .276 against Morton this season. Morton has never pitched a full season with left-handed hitters batting below .300 against him.

His progress was on display Monday night, where he was more aggressive pitching inside to left-handed batters.

It was a tactic he picked up while watching A.J. Burnett, another right-handed pitcher with a strong sinking movement on his fastball.

"He said that he learned when he saw A.J. pitch the other day," catcher Russell Martin said.

"A.J.'s a big fan of throwing inside to lefties. They have the same kind of movement on their fastballs. And he went with that mindset that he was going to be more aggressive on the inner part of the plate. It worked out for him for the most part."

Morton allowed three earned runs on six hits in 62/3 innings Monday against the Nationals.

One-run success

With their 6-5 victory Monday night against the Washington Nationals, the Pirates moved to 19-14 on the season in one-run games.

The only National League team with more one-run victories is the Arizona Diamondbacks, who had 21 before games Tuesday.

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Michael Sanserino: msanserino@post-gazette.com and Twitter @msanserino. First Published July 24, 2013 4:00 AM


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