Neil Walker's struggles as a right-handed hitter have been well documented, yet he remains adamant that he will continue to be a switch-hitter because it gives him the best chance to be successful.
Walker is batting .190 as a right-hander and entered Sunday batting .280 as a left-hander. All five of his home runs have come from the left side.
Still, Walker insists his numbers from the right side against left-handed pitchers are improving and, more importantly, are much better than they would be if he tried to hit from the left side against left-handers.
"[The ability to switch-hit] helps eliminate certain pitches usually," Walker said. "Most of the time, the ball is going away from you and off-speed is coming into you. But [switch-hitting] is a gift and a curse. It is not easy and it is something that got me here and something I'm never going to change."
Walker's struggles as a right-handed hitter have drawn some criticism this season, but his career batting average as a right-hander (.260) is not much lower than his career average as a left-hander (.285).
And while Walker's power numbers are clearly worse as a right-handed hitter, he believes they will improve as he increases his batting average from the right side.
"I've worked hard to try and do what I did right-handed a few years ago, and we are getting close but we're not quite there yet," Walker said. "People will continue to look at the numbers, but trust me, me hitting righty against righty or lefty on lefty, it wouldn't be pretty, I know that."
Cumpton earns second start
Rookie Brandon Cumpton was called up to make a spot start Saturday against the Los Angeles Dodgers and did so well in his debut -- he gave up seven hits and three runs in five innings in a 5-3 extra-innings loss -- that he was named the starter Thursday against Cincinnati.
Cumpton will start instead of Jeanmar Gomez, who will make at least one more rehabilitation start for the Class AAA Indianapolis Indians. Gomez is on the 15-day disabled list because of a right forearm strain.
General manager Neal Huntington said Sunday Cumpton's performance gave the Pirates the luxury of giving Gomez more time and that he will benefit from the extra rehabilitation start.
"Jeanmar needs to go out and get another outing underneath his belt," manager Clint Hurdle said. "I don't think it makes a lot of sense to run him out there in that ballpark in Cincinnati against that club right now."
Cumpton was the 11th pitcher to start for the Pirates this season, and there is only one pitcher in the current starting rotation, Jeff Locke, who was there when the season began.
Despite all the turnover -- mostly due to injuries -- the Pirates have continued to win and remain in contention, which Hurdle said is a good sign for the organization's pitching depth.
"At least, there is tangible evidence," Hurdle said. "You have seen the fruition of the continued development of the rotational depth. We knew it was stronger coming in and felt it was the most depth we have ever had since I have been here."
Of course, the flip side of having a lot of capable pitchers is that when they all get healthy, there will have to be some tough decisions made about who goes where -- and that could include who stays and who is waived or traded.
One pitcher who likely will have to pitch for his future -- and maybe even before he returns to the major league team -- is James McDonald, on the disabled list with right shoulder discomfort.
"We have to make the determination as to where James McDonald best fits in this group, on this club," Huntington said. "Or even does he fit? And that's a question to be answered ultimately by James McDonald and how he goes about it."
The Pirates faced the Dodgers' Zack Greinke Sunday, marking the fourth time in the homestand they faced a Cy Young Award winner (Barry Zito, Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw).
• Gerrit Cole became the first Pirates pitcher to win his first two starts since Josh Fogg in 2002.
• The game was delayed for 88 minutes due to rain, and both teams had a player scratched from the starting lineup. Pirates catcher Russell Martin was scratched due to lower-body soreness and Dodgers infielder Juan Uribe was scratched due to tightness in his back.
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1720 or Twitter @paulzeise. First Published June 17, 2013 4:00 AM