MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers are banking on familiarity breeding success for newly acquired infielder Neil Walker after a Saturday night trade returned Walker to his roots in the National League Central.Walker delivered singles in his first two at-bats of Sunday's 7-4 win over the Reds at Miller Park, continuing an
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers are banking on familiarity breeding success for newly acquired infielder Neil Walker after a Saturday night trade returned Walker to his roots in the National League Central.
Walker delivered singles in his first two at-bats of Sunday's 7-4 win over the Reds at Miller Park, continuing an emergence from a quiet period at the plate following Walker's six-week stint on the disabled list for a partially torn left hamstring.
Next up, Walker's most familiar team of all: the Pirates, for whom the Pittsburgh native and former first-round Draft pick played his first seven Major League seasons.
"I still live in the Pittsburgh area, so there's some torn people at this point in Pittsburgh," Walker said of a two-game series between the Pirates and Brewers, beginning Tuesday night at Miller Park. "But the Walker family is all on board with Milwaukee."
• Walker excited for postseason push
And Milwaukee officials were on board with Walker, assuming part of the $4.7 million left on his 2017 contract (the Mets included an undisclosed amount of cash in the deal) and sending a player to be named later to New York in the trade.
Here are some of the reasons Brewers general manager David Stearns targeted the veteran:
• Including his 2-for-4 on Sunday, Walker is a lifetime .290/.335/.533 hitter in 224 plate appearances at Miller Park. That .533 slugging percentage is his highest figure of any of the 16 stadiums in which Walker has played at least 15 games.
• His 11 homers at Miller Park are tied with Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park for Walker's highest total away from his two big league homes, PNC Park and Citi Field.
• He has done damage against the rest of the division. Walker's .770 OPS against the Brewers is actually his lowest mark versus any NL Central team. Walker has an OPS north of .800 vs. the Pirates (1.127), the Reds (.849), the Cardinals (.818) and the Cubs (.805). Twenty-six of the Brewers' remaining 42 games are against those divisional opponents, including eight against the Pirates.
"It's a win-win in my opinion," Walker said. "I knew I was in a situation in New York that there were a lot young guys that were going to get some playing time. More than anything, I want to be in a winning situation going down the stretch. To come here, and I've already talked to [Brewers manager] Craig [Counsell], I'm not here to take anyone's job. I'm here to help in any way I can. Whether it's third base, first base, second base, coming off the bench, whatever I'm asked to do, I'm willing to do it. There's nothing better than this type of baseball."
The Brewers spent their off-day in third place in the NL Central, starting the day two games behind the first-place Cubs and one behind the Cardinals.
When Walker arrived on Sunday morning, he was welcomed by at least one familiar face.
Former Pirates teammate Jared Hughes called Walker, "a hard-working, honest guy. Great sense of humor. His positivity is contagious. I think, overall, he's probably really happy to be back in the NL Central, because he gets to go home a couple times a year.
"He was one of the best teammates I've ever had. I consider him a close friend. I'm just thrilled he's here."
Did the acquisition send a message to the rest of the clubhouse?
"Absolutely," Hughes said. "It definitely does show we're here to win. We want to win the World Series. We want to make a push, win the Central, win the World Series. This management is showing that, proving that, and we now have to go out there and do it."
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.
Carson Mason is a reporter for MLB.com based in Milwaukee.