The Pittsburgh Pirates are smack dab in the middle of a post season berth for the first time in twenty years. Yet, the Bucs are somehow sputtering toward the finish line. The team has lost four straight and ten of its past 13 games.
Injuries have started to appear and the club might see some players return for a stretch run.
The Pirates second baseman Neil Walker started baseball activity yesterday and word is that if all goes well, he could return to the team by Friday. Remember, Walker hasn’t played since August 26. He missed time after a dislocated finger on August 15 as well. His average has dropped over ten points in the last ten games Walker has played in during August. Walker is hitting .114 in his past 35 at-bats with just three hits.
Walker has extended periods this season where he has been very productive at the plate. Once again this year, Walker keeps showing improved range and glovework as the Pittsburgh Kid has proven he is up to the task of being a Major League second baseman.
Another key for the Pirates is rookie Starling Marte who starts a minor-league rehab with the State College Spikes tonight. Marte will then join the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians as they open their first playoff game tomorrow night.
Marte will also be a wait-and-see candidate like Walker. The electric Bucco rookie has been out with a strained oblique muscle.
We would guess that if Walker and Marte can show progress this week, the Pirates will have them in the lineup again this weekend.
While Marte is striking out as often as his teammates this season, he has provided some spark. But nothing he has done would resemble a lead off hitter as his on-base is still putrid at .287. He’s not a Major League leadoff hitter at this point in his career, but he has displayed skills that show the incredible upside he could eventually bring to the Bucs.
The 23-year-old Marte made his debut one to remember when on July 26, he crushed a bomb in his first at-bat. The cannon-armed outfielder has played strong defense in 23 games while hitting .253 with four home runs and is slugging .421.