Pirates Notebook: Walker eager to play anywhere
Share with others:
CINCINNATI -- Neil Walker's plan through the offseason was to make it to Pittsburgh any way he could, playing any position he could.
And that is how he will proceed, even now that he is back with the Pirates.
General manager Neal Huntington said Tuesday, upon placing first baseman Steve Pearce on the 15-day disabled list because of a sprained ankle and recalling Walker, that Walker "will be used as a corner utility player who can help us with his versatility and bat," adding that "he will see playing time off the bench and in spot starts."
Walker was a third baseman for two years before branching out to play second, first and the corner outfield spots.
"We'll use him a lot of ways," manager John Russell said. "And he'll start sometimes."
The first of those starts came right away, as Walker was used at third base Tuesday night -- he played there just once this season at Indianapolis -- in place of injured Andy LaRoche.
He would go 1 for 4 with a timely RBI double, and he made two fine picks at third.
But does that mean he will play again tonight?
Russell and Walker discussed his usage upon arriving at the ballpark.
"I think they're going to try to get me as many at-bats as possible, and that's all that matters to me," Walker said. "For me, I don't care if it's left field, rover, if I have to catch, I just want to help this team win in whatever form I can. I'm happy to be here."
Walker and management had discussed in the offseason that he would try different positions, primarily because top prospect Pedro Alvarez was -- and remains -- the future fixture at third base.
"I wanted to make sure I'd put myself in the best position possible to help this team, and I'm confident that I'll be able to do that," Walker said. "It didn't just help me be diverse to get on the field. I think it helped me understand the game better, how to play the game, how to play it harder ... it's really forced me to play the game on a daily basis, not just ease my way through."
The one position where Walker might be used only as a last resort is second base, as management -- and Walker himself -- say that he still has the most work to do there. But it has not been ruled out.
"I'm not going to say he wouldn't play second," Russell said.
Coincidentally, Walker made his major-league debut in Great American Ball Park last Sept. 1.
"Nice to be back," he said with a smile.
Pearce's severely sprained right ankle was examined through an MRI, and no major tears of muscles or ligaments were discovered.
As he put it, "That was the good news."
The bad is that, although he was off crutches by Tuesday afternoon, he still had significant swelling, and the medical staff will not be able to come up with a firm prognosis for his recovery until it subsides.
He is eligible to return June 9, and that is his target.
"It's not great timing to go out, obviously, as I was feeling really good at the plate," Pearce said. "But I'll be back soon."
• LaRoche was held out of the lineup a four consecutive game because of back stiffness, and Russell said he could return at any point from tonight to Friday in Atlanta.
• Indianapolis starter Donnie Veal, who spent last season with the Pirates as a Rule 5 draft pick, was placed on the minor-league disabled list because of tightness in his left elbow/forearm. Veal was 3-2 with a 4.35 ERA.
• Daniel McCutchen, another Indianapolis starter, came off the minor-league disabled list after missing one start to arm fatigue and allowed two runs over seven innings Tuesday.
• Walker, on the pending arrival of Alvarez, Brad Lincoln and Jose Tabata, the other three top prospects still at Indianapolis: "These three guys aren't far behind, believe me. To watch these guys on a daily basis, they're doing some great things."
• The Pirates' Indian pitching prospects, Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, attended a reception hosted by President Obama Monday, among 150 guests from Asia and the Pacific Islands invited as part of the White House's Heritage Month.
First Published May 26, 2010 12:00 am