Neil Walker visited manager Clint Hurdle twice Tuesday, something Hurdle joked the second baseman does not do when he is healthy.
“The more he does this,” Hurdle said, using his hand to mime talking, “the healthier he’s getting.”
Hurdle continued to mime.
“We’re getting a lot of this.”
Walker took batting practice and fielded grounders Tuesday, another step in his recovery from an appendectomy that forced him to the 15-day disabled list. He was scheduled to simulate coming off the bench to pinch-hit by heading into the batting cages and hitting off the pitching machine late in the game Tuesday night.
“I saw the doctor today, and he didn’t think that there was any reason to slow myself down,” Walker said. “There’s nothing that I could do, swinging, torqueing, running, that’s going to bother it.”
Walker had the appendectomy June 9 and is eligible to return next Tuesday. He said he hopes to return as soon as his 15 days are up.
“Fortunately, I had a very good surgeon and have recovered pretty well and am almost back to full strength,” Walker said.
While running, doing agility drills and taking swings in the batting cage, Walker said, he has not felt any pain. Once the pain from the procedure subsided, he was good to go, though he said he thinks sliding and diving might be uncomfortable.
Walker was hitting .280 with 11 home runs and a .353 on-base percentage before the appendectomy.
“That’s probably more frustrating than anything, knowing how hot we were as a team and how we felt at the plate,” he said. “I feel like I’m going to keep myself in as good a shape as I’ve been in once I get back, continue to do what I’ve been doing.”
Five more draft picks signed with the Pirates, and every player drafted in the first 10 rounds is under contract.
The five signees included competitive-balance round A pick Connor Joe, an outfielder from the University of San Diego, and third-round outfielder Jordan Luplow from Fresno State.
Joe and Luplow will report to short-season Jamestown, as will the other three that signed Tuesday: ninth-round catcher Kevin Krause, 25th-round infielder Erik Forgione and 30th-round outfielder David Andriese.
What’s next for Cole?
Hurdle said he and general manager Neal Huntington planned to discuss the next step for right-handed pitcher Gerrit Cole. Hurdle and Cole previously said Cole, on the DL because of right shoulder fatigue, was scheduled to throw a simulated game Tuesday or today.
Cole played catch Tuesday and likely will throw in the neighborhood of 60 pitches next time out, Hurdle said, after Cole threw 34 in a bullpen session Sunday. Hurdle noted there were “no complications, no setbacks” after Cole’s side session Sunday.
Major League Baseball issued a scoring change in the game Sunday against the Miami Marlins. Jeff Baker’s eighth-inning grounder to Pedro Alvarez, after which Alvarez bounced the throw near first, was changed from a hit to an error. That gave Alvarez two errors in the game and made both runs against Tony Watson unearned.
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @BrinkPG.