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Neil Walker, Zach Duke Help Bucs Beat Rockies

Zach Duke got through six innings at Coors Field and only gave up two solo homers (back-to-back jacks to Brad Hawpe and Clint Barmes in the fifth) and Neil Walker went 3-for-4 to help beat the Rockies tonight. One of Walker's three hits was a towering homer in the eighth. This was a nice game to win, because for a few innings there, Jorge de la Rosa looked just about unstoppable - between the second and fourth innings, he struck out seven of eight batters he faced. 

Walker's average rose to .310 with his big day. He wasn't really a high-average hitter in the minors, so normally I'd be inclined to dismiss his line so far as a fluke, particularly since he has a .359 BABIP, which is pretty high. But it's hard to really believe that argument when you're watching him. He's hitting the ball hard pretty much all the time, a little like Freddy Sanchez did back in 2006 - despite Walker's homer tonight, his game has been more about the double than the long ball, just like Sanchez's was.

Of course, Sanchez had an inordinately high batting average that year too, and that eventually fell. And Walker is a lot more strikeout-prone than Sanchez is, which doesn't affect what Walker has done so far, but does make it trickier for him to put up a .310 average year in and year out. Still, between Walker's performance in the majors and the minors from the end of last year to the present, the likelihood that he'll eventually hit 15 homers a year or so, and his ability to play second on a regular basis, there are finally plenty of reasons to be excited about the guy, even when the batting average comes down. I had all but written him off after a poor season in 2008 and a 2009 campaign that wasn't much better until the very end, but clearly he's proving me wrong. Good for him.

-P- The Pirates signed pitcher Travis Chick and sent him to Indianapolis. Chick carved up the low minors when he was with the Marlins and performed decently in Class AA with the Padres as a 21-year-old, which isn't easy to do, but his career peaked there, probably because he doesn't throw terribly hard. He bounced around the Reds, Mariners and Dodgers systems before ending up in indy ball. He's only 26 now and he can start, but he isn't a prospect.

-P- The same article contains the note that Tyler Waldron and Phillip Irwin were named the Pitchers of the Week in the New York-Penn League and South Atlantic League, respectively. Waldron, the Bucs' 2010 fifth-rounder, pitched eleven scoreless innings for State College, and 2009 draftee Irwin pitched seven no-hit innings this weekend for West Virginia. 

-P- After missing a start, Bryan Morris came back tonight and pitched brilliantly, allowing two hits and no runs while striking out eight in five innings.