Walker feeling confident at plate

Walker feeling confident at plate

ATLANTA -- Whether it's at third base or second, Neil Walker has become an everyday regular in the Pittsburgh lineup.

"I guess I'm a little bit surprised, but at the same time this is what I was preparing myself for," Walker said. "I'm not here just to be here. I want to contribute."

The switch-hitting rookie started his fifth consecutive game since being promoted from Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday. Three were at third base and he was in the lineup at second base for the second time Saturday night against the Braves.

Runs haven't been coming easily for Pittsburgh and Walker had two doubles in Friday's 7-3 loss to Atlanta as he raised his average to .294. He was hitting .321 in Triple-A and his success there has carried over.

"I think I've been able to find the confidence to really believe in myself up here," the 24-year-old said. "I'm a lot more comfortable at the plate, as well as in the field. And also being able to play second base and the outfield now gives me more opportunities."

The Pittsburgh native was up briefly with the Pirates last season, but hit just .194 in 17 games.

"He was a little awestruck," manager John Russell said. "It was so new to him. Now he knows what to expect. And having very good success down there [at Indianapolis] built some confidence. ... He's got over that hump [where he knows] 'I did it down there and now I know I can do it up here.'

"Obviously, you've got to give him credit. He's played well. We're struggling scoring runs and he's hit the ball. I'm not a rocket scientist. But I can figure out when a guy is swinging the bat pretty well, you want him in the lineup."