Neil Walker batted second for the second consecutive game Wednesday, behind Starling Marte and before Andrew McCutchen.
Manager Clint Hurdle said the decision to bat Walker there took into account his batting average on balls in play (BABIP), which measures how many of the balls a batter hits in play go for hits. It was at .217 heading into the series.
“It’s his batting average on balls in play. He’s hit the ball extremely well …” said Hurdle. “I like the fact that he’s probably less likely to get flipped there than he is later.”
Batting Walker second also would allow Hurdle to slide Russell Martin from second to fifth, where the catcher would be sandwiched between two left-handed batters — Pedro Alvarez in the cleanup spot and Ike Davis at No. 6.
Martin, however, was a late scratch from the lineup Wednesday and replaced by Chris Stewart as the starting catcher. That led to a shuffled lineup.
The reason for Martin’s removal according to the Pirates, was “manager’s discretion.”
Stewart batted eighth and Davis moved up to No. 5.
Before Wednesday, Walker had gone 7 for 14 in his past four games and 8 for 20 against the Reds this season with three home runs.
Hurdle attributed Walker’s start to the second baseman’s good health in spring training and continued focus.
“It’s the first winter he got to work on getting stronger. The winter before was all about rehab, so it’s an entirely different program,” said Hurdle. “That gave him some momentum coming into spring training. He just kept working, working the right side, working the left side.
“Other than that, I think he’s in a good place. Right-handed at-bats have been crisp, but left-handed at-bats there’s been some barrels show up to drive some balls out of the ballpark.”
Case of unknown starter
The Pirates have not named a starter today to replace Wandy Rodriguez’s spot in the rotation.
But Brandon Cumpton, originally scheduled to pitch Wednesday for Class AAA Indianapolis, was scratched from that start which could line him up for a spot start with the Pirates.
Cumpton is 2-0 for Indianapolis with a 1.42 ERA in 19 innings.
Ishikawa a free agent
First baseman Travis Ishikawa cleared waivers and elected to become a free agent, the Pirates announced.
Ishikawa was designated for assignment Friday when the Pirates acquired Davis from the New York Mets in a trade.
Ishikawa had 38 plate appearances for the Pirates after making the roster out of spring training. He hit .206 with one home run and three RBIs.
Time for assessment
April will turn to May next week, which prompted Hurdle to assess the first month this season.
“You want to get a rhythm and you’d like to see your starters get out of the box to give you innings,” said Hurdle. “Our record stands at 9-12; we’ve earned that. I’m very optimistic about the job the starters have done overall as a group.
“We’ve had two blown saves, back-to-back days which we didn’t have last year. That freaked some people out early. It does. We’re capable out there. We’re going to be good out there. I’m very confident of the group we have out there.
“Offensively we’re still working to fight and scratch to be more consistent. The overall consistency is what we’re working for.”
Chapman throws BP
Cincinnati closer Aroldis Chapman, coming back after a line drive hit him in the face in spring training, threw live batting practice Wednesday at PNC Park.
Jenn Menendez: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @JennMenendez.