TribLIVE

| Sports

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

No switch in plans this season for Pirates second baseman Walker

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates second baseman Neil Walker bats against the Yankees on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, at McKechnie Field in Bradenton Fla.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates second baseman Neil Walker bats against the Yankees on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, at McKechnie Field in Bradenton Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates second baseman Neil Walker talks with hitting coach Jeff Branson during batting practice at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates second baseman Neil Walker talks with hitting coach Jeff Branson during batting practice at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates second baseman Neil Walker connects on a pitch during batting practice at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates second baseman Neil Walker connects on a pitch during batting practice at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates second baseman Neil Walker takes right-handed batting practice at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates second baseman Neil Walker takes right-handed batting practice at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates second baseman Neil Walker prepares to take batting practice after talking with hitting coach Jeff Branson at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates second baseman Neil Walker prepares to take batting practice after talking with hitting coach Jeff Branson at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.

Pirates/MLB Videos

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Switch splits

Neil Walker's 2013 splits as a switch-hitter:

Split PA H HR BB SO Avg OPS

vs. RHP as LHB 457 102 16 44 70 .256 .805

vs. LHP as RHB 94 18 0 6 15 .225 .519

Pirates podcasts

  • Loading...

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, 9:30 p.m.
 

TAMPA — The Pirates are going to send Neil Walker to minor league camp.

Don't panic. The Pittsburgh Kid still is the starting second baseman. There's logic behind having Walker play some innings against the Triple-A Durham Bulls or Double-A Trenton Thunder on a day the Pirates are facing the New York Yankees.

Blame a lack of left-handed pitchers. Walker scuffled last year against southpaws, but it's hard to figure them out without facing them often in spring training. So when lefties are scheduled to pitch in minor league games, Walker will catch a ride from McKechnie Field to Pirate City to put in his work.

Some stats wonks insist it would be better for Walker to give up switch-hitting. He said that would be running from a problem, not finding a solution.

“I'll always be a switch-hitter,” Walker said Thursday. “The critics can say this or that about hitting left-handed (full-time). But if they'd ever try to hit a left-hander's slider (while batting) left-handed, they'd reconsider.”

Walker's struggles last year were not limited to lefties. Many of his stats were significantly lower, he made two trips to the disabled list and he was not a factor at the plate in the playoffs.

“I was battling myself for most of the year,” Walker said. “I just got in a place where I was treading water, trying to force things. I tried to do too much at certain times, and that's just not necessary. I know I'm a better player than what the numbers show.”

Regardless of what camp he's in, Walker has plenty to work on during spring training. He wants to get back to his roots as a gap-to-gap hitter.

Walker hit 16 home runs last season, the most by a Pirates second baseman since Bill Mazeroski slugged 16 in 1966. Yet, despite having about the same number of at-bats with runners in scoring position, Walker drove in fewer runs (53) than he did a year earlier (69).

In the wild-card game against the Cincinnati Reds, Walker doubled and went 2 for 5. But he was hitless in all 19 at-bats against the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Division Series.

“It wasn't a lack of effort,” Walker said. “I tried to push things too much, and that was the wrong thing to do.”

There were some good stretches for Walker, too. After coming off the DL at the end of July, he put together a career-best nine-game hitting streak and batted .305 in August. In mid-September, Walker homered four times in a five-game stretch.

“He went about his business and busted his butt to be ready every day,” shortstop Clint Barmes said. “Everybody goes through struggles. I thought he handled it great.”

When asked about last season in general terms, Walker's first response had nothing to do with his personal high or low points. He talked about the thrill of being part of the first Pirates club in 21 years to reach the playoffs.

“You can already tell the success of last year has carried over to spring training,” Walker said. “You can feel the confidence. You can feel the sense of no matter who we have in here, we have a chance to win every night.

“It's the same for me individually. When you can prove to yourself, to each other and to a city that you're as good as you think you are, it can take you a long way.”

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

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Pirates

  1. Pirates third baseman Ramirez’s last ride is about winning a ring
  2. Gameday: Pirates at Twins, July 28, 2015
  3. Pirates notebook: No sign of improvement for RHP Sadler
  4. Cole collects MLB-best 14th win as Pirates take series against Nationals
  5. Pirates minor league report: Moore a breakout star in Morgantown
  6. Making splash at MLB trade deadline not always in buyers’ best interest
  7. Starting 9: Pirates help and the illusion of help
  8. Nationals pound Burnett, Pirates
  9. Pirates notebook: Ramirez thrown into spotlight upon joining Pirates
  10. Gameday: Pirates vs. Nationals, July 26, 2015
  11. Pirates bats awaken, Liriano looks strong in win against Nationals