Pirates notebook: Walker gets deserved day of rest

The Pirates' Neil Walker follows through with his swing on a two-run double to right field against the Padres on Monday, June 2, 2014, in San Diego.
The Pirates' Neil Walker follows through with his swing on a two-run double to right field against the Padres on Monday, June 2, 2014, in San Diego.
Photo by AP
Rob Biertempfel
| Wednesday, June 4, 2014, 5:33 p.m.

SAN DIEGO — On the 59th day, Neil Walker rested.

After starting each of the first 58 games this season, Walker was not in the Pirates' starting lineup Wednesday against the San Diego Padres.

“He's tired,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He's been on the field a lot, and maybe I've got to do a better job of giving him more opportunities to get off the field as we move forward. We're also very mindful of the fact that he's played the last two seasons hurt. He's not made of Teflon. This is one day, but I think it's a significant day.”

A few days ago in Los Angeles, Hurdle talked to Walker about getting a day off. The Pirates were scheduled to fly back to Pittsburgh late Wednesday night and have an off day Thursday — after a stretch of 16 games in 16 straight days — so Walker is essentially getting a 48-hour break.

Walker laughed when someone suggested Cal Ripken is relieved to see him out of the lineup. Ripken played in an MLB-record 2,632 consecutive games over 16 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles.

“I never really thought about that, but I do want to play every day,” Walker said. “It's something I take pride in. It's something that is undervalued in today's game, but it's not easy to do.

“It's easy to do April through June. But when you hit the dog days of summer, there are days you wake up and you don't even want to come to the field. But you have to. We've learned to play the game this way, to push through the times you're tired or nicked up a little bit.”

Happy anniversary, Cutch

Wednesday was the fifth anniversary of Andrew McCutchen's big league debut. In that span, he leads National League players in hits (877) and runs scored (412), is second in games played (791) and walks (405) and third in doubles (177).

“It's definitely been a whirlwind,” McCutchen said. “The biggest thing I've learned over time is you have to have faith and belief in yourself, of what you want to do in life and what you want to accomplish. It has to start with you.”

Cole's offspeed effective

In Tuesday's 4-1 win, Gerrit Cole got four of his strikeouts with curveballs. He relied on the pitch particularly against Chase Headley and Seth Smith, the Padres' Nos. 3 and 4 hitters.

The increased usage of offspeed pitches was by design. Cole said his delivery felt solid from the start of the game with all of his pitches.

“We've been working on trying to create that easy, nice, flowing arm speed on the offspeed,” Cole said. “That comes from not overthrowing the fastball so much. We did a good job with that tonight and that's what set it up. I don't know if the quality was any better, but I think the discrepancy between the two pitches was good.”

In the zone

Like all teams, the Pirates' advance scouts prepare detailed “hot and cold zone” graphics for each opposing batter. The starting pitcher reviews the charts before every game, but the information doesn't help every guy the same way.

“Scouting reports are really great for guys who can put the ball wherever they want to,” Cole said. “For the most part, I have an idea where the ball's going. But I am by no means Greg Maddux. So, I can't worry about the hot zones early in the count. I can't worry about the hot zones with nobody on base. I've got to just attack.”

Cole added that sometimes, it's good to put off taking shots at a batter's cold zones until the situation is right.

“Saving some of those pitches for key situations can get us out of jams late,” he said.

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