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Pirates notebook: Walker placed on DL

| Tuesday, July 9, 2013, 9:57 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates second baseman Neil Walker talks with catcher Michael McKenry in the dugout during a game against the Oakland Athletics Monday, July 8, 2013, at the PNC Park.
Christopher Horner
Pirates infielder Brandon Inge talks with manager Clint Hurdle at Pirate City Saturday Feb. 16, 2013 in Bradenton, Fla. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

The Pirates put second baseman Neil Walker on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday and recalled infielder Josh Harrison from Triple-A Indianapolis.

Walker's move is retroactive to Sunday. He hasn't played since tweaking his right oblique Saturday against the Chicago Cubs.

Jordy Mercer started at second base and Clint Barmes was at shortstop Tuesday against the Oakland A's. Harrison and Brandon Inge also are in the mix to fill in for Walker, who will be eligible to come off the DL on July 22.

At Indy, Harrison hit .317 with four homers and 34 RBI. That likely puts him ahead of Inge, who's locked in a deep batting funk, in the pecking order for playing time.

A 13-year veteran, Inge, 36, joined the Pirates on a one-year, $1.25 million deal. He missed most of spring training camp due to a fractured shoulder blade and began the regular season on the disabled list.

Inge has not gotten hits in consecutive games since the end of April, when he singled in four straight games to raise his batting average to .292. Since then, he's been used mostly as a pinch-hitter and went into Tuesday's game batting .184 and riding a 2-for-26 funk.

When asked specifically Tuesday whether it is time to find a better option off the bench than Inge, manager Clint Hurdle was evasive.

“We continually evaluate, across the board, with all our players,” Hurdle said. “We're always looking for ways to not only make the players we have here better — to help them find more consistency — but we (also) have conversations about what's the best direction for the club on an individual or group basis.”

No All-Star outing for Locke?

Left-hander Jeff Locke will start Sunday's first-half finale against the Mets. In the past, working on the final day before the break prevented starters from pitching in the All-Star Game. However, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement gives players the option of tossing one inning in the All-Star Game if they so choose.

Pirates management likely is not keen on Locke making an appearance Tuesday at Citi Field. When asked if Locke had indicated whether he would pitch in the All-Star Game, Hurdle said only that “we have not discussed it yet.”

Let him hear it

Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett criticized NL captain David Wright, who left Pirates All-Star third baseman Pedro Alvarez out of the Home Run Derby.

“I know it's not a life-or-death thing, but Pedro deserved to be there,” Burnett said.

The Mets will play a three-game set at PNC Park this weekend. Hurdle had a suggestion for fans who are upset about Alvarez's snub.

“Our fan base will have an opportunity to show (its) feelings this weekend when the (Mets) come to town,” Hurdle said. “We have a passionate group here in Pittsburgh.”

Barmes believin'

During the last homestand, Clint Barmes changed his walk-up music to “Don't Stop Believin',” an anthem recorded in 1981 by the rock band Journey.

“Can't beat the '80s music,” Barmes, 34, said with a grin.

Barmes has always liked the song, but never used it as his in-game music. He made the switch after a few teammates talked him into it.

“If there's one song I'd play in the clubhouse before a game for the whole team, that would be it,” Barmes said. “It's a meaningful song. Great lyrics.”

Yet, there are no vocals in the snippet Barmes uses as he walks to the plate, only the opening notes played on the piano. When he came to bat Monday, the crowd began singing the song after the piano faded out.

“I didn't expect that,” Barmes said. “It was nice. Almost gave me chills.”

Foreign intrigue

The Pirates have netted seven international players since the signing period began July 2. Of those, shortstop Adrian Valerio drew the most praise from Latin American scouting director Rene Gayo.

“He's the first guy I've ever signed more for his defensive ability than his bat,” Gayo said. “He's one of the best I've ever seen. He reminds me of Ozzie Smith — he has uncanny timing and can slow the game down. You don't see shortstops like that anymore.”

Valerio, 16, signed for $400,000, which is the largest bonus the Pirates have paid this year. He was not among the 10 shortstops on Baseball America's list of the top 30 international prospects.

The Pirates likely will sign another player or two in the coming weeks. Players cannot sign until after their 16th birthday.

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