Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Neil Walker is inching closer to being activated off the disabled list. He began his rehab assignment Thursday night in Double-A, and if all goes well he should be able to join the team within the next few days.
Walker went 1-for-4 with a double while playing for Double-A Altoona. He also played six innings on defense, which was more than necessary. Pittsburgh just wants to see if his hand can handle multiple innings of punishment, but there is no reason to push the limit. It is more than likely that he will suit up at least one more time with the team before the end of the weekend.
Walker was placed on the 15-day disabled list two weeks ago with a severe hand injury that he suffered on April 26 against the St. Louis Cardinals. The 27-year-old attempted to break up a double play in the eighth inning after Pedro Alvarez hit a ground ball to second base with the bases loaded. Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma came down hard directly on top of Walker’s right hand. His spikes cut Walker’s hand severely to the point where the medical staff needed to use six stitches to close the wound.
The good news is the four-year veteran’s hand had time to heal, and his 15 days on the disabled list will be up on Sunday. It does not appear that Walker will need any more time than that to get ready for his return to the big leagues. That means the Pirates should expect him in the lineup in the series finale against the New York Mets.
The switch-hitter is batting .253 with one home run, eight RBI, 10 walks, two doubles and one triple in 79 at-bats this season.