Switch-hitting Walker sits against lefty

Switch-hitting Walker sits against lefty

Switch-hitting Walker sits against lefty

WASHINGTON -- The double-play tandem of shortstop Clint Barmes and second baseman Jordy Mercer didn't stay away long. Two days after Neil Walker's return, the Pirates revived that combination for Thursday's game against Washington southpaw Gio Gonzalez.

It may become a regular maneuver, given the switch-hitting Walker's ongoing troubles batting from the right side. A solid .254 hitter -- with all of his 21 extra-base hits -- left-handed, Walker is 11-for-57 (.193) as a righty.

"Neil is working to get better, and he is aware of the splits," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We have talked about [Mercer getting playing time at second against left-handers]. It's an option."

Thursday's move was also influenced by Walker's quick return from a mild right oblique injury. He had started the last two games, going 1-for-8 with two RBIs and having active games in the field.

"The back-to-back days and then the quick turnaround [for Thursday's 12:35 p.m. ET start] were part of it," Hurdle said, "so we weren't pushing over aggressively."

Since the start of the 2012 season, Walker has hit .277 left-handed and .228 right-handed. Only four of his 44 career homers have come from the right side.

Has there been any talk about having Walker forego switch-hitting?

"None whatsoever," Hurdle said. "He continues to work very hard on balancing it out."

In-game reps would help. The Bucs were facing a lefty starter for only the 20th time this season on Thursday -- the fewest among National League teams.

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.