WASHINGTON (93-7 THE FAN) — According to Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune-Review, Pirates second baseman Neil Walker will return to the team’s starting lineup tomorrow after sitting out since July 7 with a sore right oblique.
Walker has completed a three-day rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis, and he was given Monday’s game off by Pirates manager Clint Hurdle as a precautionary measure.
“I feel good,” Walker told Biertempfel. “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.”
Hurdle added it was an uncommonly quick recovery for this particular type of injury.
For the nine games Walker missed, Hurdle moved Jordy Mercer from shortstop to second, and concurrently gave Clint Barmes his old job back. Mercer took a seven-game hitting streak into Monday’s series opener with the host Nationals.
The Pirates will appreciate all the offensive help they can get, especially as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches. On Sunday they ended an 0-for-29 slump with runners in scoring position in a 3-2 win in Cincinnati, and entered Monday 13th in the National League in runs scored and 12th in team batting average (.243).
Health issues have decreased Walker’s productivity since the end of last season, as he held just a .244 average and 26 RBI at the time of this most recent DL stint. He is a career .275 hitter and has managed at least a dozen homers in each of his last three seasons, averaging approximately 70 RBI per year in that span.
Defensively, Walker currently ranks among the NL’s top five second basemen in double plays turned and fielding percentage.
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