In new-look lineup, Walker bats leadoff for first time
PITTSBURGH -- The extent to which the Pirates' landscape has shifted in the last few days was evident on the clubhouse wall. The lineup posted for Game No. 136 was unlike any of the previous 135.
Only Nos. 3-4 were familiar guys in familiar spots, Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez. They were preceded by leadoff man Neil Walker and Garrett Jones in the two-hole, and followed in sequence by the real landscape shifters: newcomers Marlon Byrd, Justin Morneau and John Buck.
In the words of the man who brought them in, their presence "makes Clint's job easier."
"We've added depth, upgraded the everyday lineup and, as a result, also our bench," general manager Neal Huntington added. "We've got a lot of weapons to help us win a game."
Did manager Clint Hurdle's job really become easier, or more complex with the greater options? One thing seems certain: A set lineup is a thing of the past, and the revolving door has been oiled. That makes Hurdle's daily decisions critical. Is that easy?
"We're better," Hurdle echoed, "and that does make my job easier. My job is to use my eyes, ears and the voice of the staff, put people out there who are producing, and just watch them play."
All of Hurdle's senses told him to give Walker his first career start at the leadoff spot, an opportunity which "excited Neil" when tipped off Saturday night.
"It will give me a chance to see more pitches," Walker said. "But I'll still be as aggressive. I've been seeing the ball real good."
The personnel set to face St. Louis right-hander Joe Kelly led Hurdle to Walker. No one in the lineup, with the exception of Jordy Mercer [who wound up in the eight-hole) could seriously be considered.
And there was something else.
"I thought, 'You know what?' He kind of resembles that kid who leads off for the other team over there," said Hurdle, referring to Cardinals second baseman, and National League All-Star, Matt Carpenter.