Pirates Notebook: Walker not lost in shuffle to No. 4
Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton, center, is congratulated by second baseman Neil Walker, right, and shortstop Ronny Cedeno following Friday's game at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.
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CINCINNATI -- Neil Walker has one at-bat as the No. 4 hitter in a major league lineup, coming off the bench in late 2009. Friday against the Reds, he started as the fourth batter for the first time.
Manager Clint Hurdle shuffled the lineup after the team lost four in a row and scored one run in the previous two games.
He had Andrew McCutchen, who hit third each of the first 12 games, lead off, former leadoff man Jose Tabata bat second and Lyle Overbay, who hit fourth in 11 games this season, hit third.
"We talked to all of them about it," Hurdle said. "It should bring comfort and I think they can play upon each other's strengths."
Walker hit cleanup in spring training and various times in the minor leagues.
"He's hitting fourth," Hurdle said. "Everybody's going to throw cleanup at him because that's what we do. We don't have what I consider a definition cleanup hitter, so he's going to hit fourth.
"And he's been a run producer."
Walker leads the Pirates in RBIs this season with nine. Last season he had 66 RBIs in 110 games, 54 of them from the beginning of July on.
"I feel like I'm adaptive as a hitter," Walker said. "There's not one certain pitch that gives me a lot of trouble. I feel like a lot of times I put the ball in play. When you're doing those things and putting the ball on the barrel you're going to find real estate more oftentimes than not."
Tabata's .302 average leads the team, and he started the season on a 10-game hitting streak.
He said he won't change his approach batting second, a lineup spot he held for 66 games in 2010.
"That's better for my coaching, my focus," he said. "Just stay in my approach and do my job."
He said he is excited about hitting behind McCutchen, who has a .283 average with 23 home runs and 123 runs scored in 180 career games batting leadoff.
Hurdle said the lineup was not just a trial and will stay consistent for more than a couple of games.
The Pirates selected the contract of left-handed reliever Joe Beimel Friday and designated reliever Garrett Olson for assignment.
Beimel had been rehabbing in the minor leagues because of left elbow inflammation.
He made two appearances with Class AAA Indianapolis, pitching two scoreless innings and striking out three. He also made one appearance with Class A Bradenton, pitching one scoreless inning.
"[His] command was good, velocity was good, breaking ball and changeup were crisp," Hurdle said. "He had good command against the left-handers; got to face some left-handers, got to face some right-handers."
Beimel was a non-roster invitee to spring training and was signed to a minor league contract in January.
"I was locating very well; all my pitches were working," said Beimel, who said he also hadn't felt pain since spring training.
Olson, a left-hander, made four appearances this season. He pitched 41/3 innings and was 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA.
The Pirates still have only one left-hander in the bullpen.
Jeff Karstens will start Sunday against the Reds. Hurdle said the Pirates chose not to send Daniel McCutchen, who was recalled from Indianapolis Saturday when Ross Ohlendorf went on the disabled list, to the minors when Beimel joined the team because McCutchen is the only reliever stretched enough to handle several innings in relief now that Karstens is starting.
First Published April 16, 2011 12:24 am