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Walker supplants Iwamura at second

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Pirates manager John Russell said yesterday that Neil Walker will get the majority of starts at second base, and Aki Iwamura has been moved to the bench.

Walker, a Pine-Richland graduate, was promoted from Triple-A Indianapolis one week ago and is 9 for 28 with four multi-hit games following a 2 for 4 performance yesterday against the Chicago Cubs.

The Bucs' 2-1 victory yesterday was Walker's third start in seven games with the Pirates at second base, a position he started working at during spring training this year.

"(Walker) has done a nice job," Russell said. "We're not giving him the job, but we'll see how it goes. He still has a lot of work to do and has to fine-tune his skills at second, but he's made good progress."

Iwamura, who snapped an 0 for 34 streak at the plate on May 23, took a .173 batting average into yesterday's pinch-hit appearance — the third-lowest figure among regular players in the majors. The team's highest-paid player — Iwamura makes $4.85 million — grounded out softly in the seventh and was booed.

Iwamura's relegation to the bench doesn't mean he's never going to start again, Russell said. But they hope to get him in the weight room and work toward improving mobility in his surgically repaired left knee.

"No player likes being told they're not going to play much," Russell said of Iwamura's reaction. "It's not an easy pill to swallow. I'm sure he's disappointed and upset, but hopefully he takes it the right way and works hard."

Russell said they also may give Iwamura some playing time at third base, which was his position in Japan. Prior to 2008, he'd only played one game at second base.

• Andrew McCutchen has reassumed duties as the Pirates' leadoff hitter, which was Iwamura's spot in 35 of 51 games. "He thrived at leadoff last year and he enjoys it," Russell said. "We're trying to set the table for the team and energize the offense."

• As was the case at major-league ballparks across the country, the Pirates paused the game briefly at 3 p.m. for a National Moment of Remembrance.

• Former Pirates lefty Tom Gorzelanny was taken out of the Cubs' rotation and moved to the bullpen, while John Grabow, another former Pirates left-hander, was placed on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his left knee.

• The Pirates have won 105 games on Memorial Day, most in major-league history.

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