WASHINGTON -- Neil Walker got to bat from both sides of the plate, got a couple of hits and participated in a couple of double plays. But the best thing to happen to Walker during his rehab weekend at Triple-A Indianapolis was swinging and missing.
Getting fooled on pitches rarely felt as good -- because Walker couldn't feel any discomfort in the right oblique area that put him on the disabled list on June 9.
"I swung through a couple pitches with hard swings and finished [the swings] the same way as when I strained it," Walker said. "And it didn't give me any issues -- no pinching, or tightness, or cramping. That was a tell-tale sign for me."
The tell-tale signs for the Pirates will be how Walker reacts to his full-boar Monday workout at Nationals Park, and how doctors check him out. That was one reason the second baseman wasn't activated for Monday night's game. Another was manager Clint Hurdle's reluctance anyway to have him play a fourth straight day with an injury that ordinarily has been a higher, longer obstacle.
"I think we pushed him dramatically, playing in three straight [with the Indians]. I thought that was a big push," Hurdle said. "The minimum time somebody being down with [an oblique] will be this, if we can pull this off. It'll be the least amount of time I've ever seen a player miss with an oblique."
If Walker passes his tests, he will be activated and returned to the lineup for Tuesday's game.
Since the start of the 2012 season, the Pirates are 108-86 when Walker is in the starting lineup, and 28-36 when he is not. If Walker is back at second base, Jordy Mercer presumably will return to the other side of the bag -- although veteran Clint Barmes has batted .357 in nine consecutive starts at shortstop afforded by Walker's absence.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.