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Pirates notebook: Walker expected to return to lineup Tuesday

| Monday, July 22, 2013, 5:54 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates second baseman Neil Walker forces out the Braves' Juan Francisco during the second inning Thursday, April 18, 2013, at PNC Park.

WASHINGTON — Second baseman Neil Walker has made a rapid recovery from a sore right oblique and likely will be in the starting lineup Tuesday against the Washington Nationals.

Walker rejoined the Pirates and was scheduled to be examined Monday after a three-game rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis. He has been on the disabled list since July 7.

“I feel good,” Walker said. “I had no problems, no setbacks. I took a lot of normal swings. The more I swung, the better it felt. That was very encouraging.”

Walker caught the injury early, so it did not require a lengthy recovery time. He was eligible to come off the DL on Monday, but manager Clint Hurdle opted to give Walker a day off before putting him back in the lineup.

“Thirteen days down with a three day rehab — that will be shortest amount of time down I've ever seen for a player with an oblique,” Hurdle said. “I think we pushed him dramatically, playing him three straight days (at Indy). With the experience we have in dealing with obliques, four days in a row is too much.”

Jordy Mercer has started the past nine games at second base. When Walker returns, the Pirates could clear a roster spot by either releasing Brandon Inge or sending Josh Harrison back to Indy. Inge is batting .181 and is hitless in his past 13 at-bats.

No hard feelings

During the telecast of the game Sunday against the Cincinnati Reds, broadcaster Thom Brennaman was heard whispering, “This guy sucks,” after Pirates lefty Jeff Locke walked Zack Cozart in the fifth inning. Video of the incident was on the Internet soon after the end of the game, and it created a firestorm among Pirates fans on Twitter.

Sunday night, Brennaman called Pirates media relations assistant Dan Hart and said his comment was not directed at Locke. Brennaman did not speak with Locke.

“I appreciate him reaching out to us, regardless of what was true or not true,” Locke said. “I thought it was a real gentlemanly move by him. He told Dan he actually thinks the world of me and thinks I have a bright future ahead of me.”

Locke said there are no hard feelings on his part.

“Even if (Brennaman) did (say it), he wouldn't be the first person and I promise you he won't be the last,” Locke said with a laugh. “Everyone's entitled to their opinion.”

Streaking, good and bad

Pirates righty Gerrit Cole has a chance to make some ignominious history Tuesday when he pitches against the Nationals.

Cole has dropped his past three decisions after beginning his big league career with a 4-0 record. The last rookie starter to lose four in a row after going 4-0 was right-hander Tom Candiotti, who did it in 1983 with the Milwaukee Brewers.

“For young players, more often than not, they'll learn more through adversity than they do through success,” Hurdle said.

“Gerrit's last three starts have given him an opportunity to look at things through a different lens, and that's important.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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