6/23/2014 7:11 P.M. ET
Hurdle to face questions with Walker's return
By David Adler / MLB.com
ST. PETERSBURG -- Barring an unforeseen setback, Pirates second baseman Neil Walker, who is on the disabled list after an appendectomy, will be activated when he is eligible on Tuesday, manager Clint Hurdle said Monday.
Walker, who played all nine innings for Class A Advanced Bradenton on Sunday, was in St. Petersburg on Monday, where he hit against rehabbing starter Gerrit Cole in a simulated game.
"Seeing the pitches that he saw on Friday, five at-bats yesterday, he was out, engaged with Cole for more than a handful of at-bats today -- by him showing up, it kind of told us that he felt he was ready to go," Hurdle said.
Walker, who is batting .280 with 11 home runs and 35 RBIs this season, said he is ready to play every day upon returning. He tested himself out in Bradenton, and the results were all positive.
"[Sunday] was a good day," Walker said. "Got five plate appearances and dove once, which was the biggest concern -- what was it was gonna feel like to dive on my stomach? And I got that out of the way and that was fine."
With Walker coming back, Hurdle will have some decisions to make with his lineup, and especially with Josh Harrison, who has been playing second base in Walker's absence. Harrison had also been playing right field, but rookie Gregory Polanco has taken over that spot.
"When Neil comes back, where's [Harrison's] best fit?" Hurdle said. "You look at the positions [Harrison] plays, and you find him reps there. He plays second, he plays third, he plays left, he plays right. If you're gonna give an outfielder a day; [Harrison] can go in either corner. If you're gonna give Neil a day against left-handed pitching, [Harrison] can go there.
"Can [Harrison] go to third? Absolutely, he can go to third -- you know, Pedro [Alvarez is] trying to find his way, still, so that's an option. But a guy that's doing the things [Harrison's] been doing to help the club? He needs to be a priority of finding reps right now."
Harrison is batting .306 with five homers and 22 RBIs this season.
Cole's sim game gets positive reviews from Hurdle
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rehabbing Pirates starter Gerrit Cole, on the disabled list with right shoulder fatigue, threw a six-inning, 84-pitch simulated game at Tropicana Field before Monday's series opener against the Rays.
Among the batters to face Cole was second baseman Neil Walker, who is eligible to come off the DL Tuesday.
"I thought it went very well," manager Clint Hurdle said. "The volume of work -- six ups, 84 pitches. Threw his two-seamer, his four-seamer, his curveball -- probably more than his slider -- his changeup was good, the finish to his fastball was firm and solid.
"We'll see how he feels tomorrow, but I thought it was a very good next challenge that, from at least the perspective of today, he was able to meet and do well with."
There's a chance Cole could return to start Saturday's game against the Mets, but Hurdle said he's not making a firm decision about Cole or the weekend rotation until the team knows for sure the status of the right-hander's shoulder.
Cole is 6-3 with a 3.64 ERA this season, and last pitched on June 3 in San Diego.
Polanco's hit streak halted, on-base streak intact
ST. PETERSBURG -- Pirates rookie right fielder Gregory Polanco's franchise-best 11-game career-opening hit streak came to an end on Sunday, when he went 0-for-3. If he had hit safely in two more games, he would have tied the record of 13 games set by Minnesota's Glenn Williams.
Polanco did extend his streak of games reaching base safely to 12 with a walk in his final plate appearance Sunday. He is the fourth Pirate to reach base safely in his first 12 career games, joining Clyde Barnhart (1920), Dino Restelli (1949) and Gus Suhr (1930).
Williams, the record-holder, signed with the Atlanta Braves as a free agent out of Australia, then spent 10 years in the Minor Leagues before finally debuting with the Twins in 2005. He hit safely in 13 straight games to start his big league career, then dislocated his shoulder and never played another game in the Majors -- ending his career with the hit streak intact.
Williams was also on the 2004 Australian Olympic baseball team that won the silver medal, and he was hired to manage the Australian Baseball League's Sydney Blue Sox in their inaugural season.
• Pirates left fielder Starling Marte, who was in the Dominican Republic on a personal matter, returned to the team on Monday. He was in the starting lineup against the Rays, batting second.
David Adler is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.