PITTSBURGH -- After Neil Walker hit just .225 (18-for-80) with no homers and seven RBIs while batting right-handed in 2013, there has been considerable chatter among fans and the media that perhaps the switch-hitting second baseman would be better served hitting left-handed against left-handed pitchers.
But he disagrees.
"I got the least amount of right-handed at-bats this year that I've ever gotten," said Walker, who is a natural right-handed hitter. "There was only one left-handed starter in our division [Travis Wood of the Cubs], so the volume of at-bats just wasn't there. And facing left-handed relievers who are late-inning guys with big arms -- like [Cincinnati's] Aroldis Chapman -- isn't exactly the easiest thing if you're not where you want to be, as far as having a volume of at-bats as a switch-hitter.
"I know that question has been asked a lot, and it's been a hot topic for me individually -- whether I should start hitting left-handed against lefties -- but I'll tell you right now, I have a better chance of hitting right-handed against lefties. I need to be better and I will continue to work hard, but the fact of the matter is the best practice you get is in-game experience and bundling up at-bats."
Morton's belief in organization fueled desire to return
PITTSBURGH -- At PirateFest on Saturday, pitcher Charlie Morton made it clear that he's delighted with the three-year contract extension he signed earlier this week. The 30-year-old right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery in June 2012, but bounced back well, going 7-4 in 20 starts for the Pirates during the 2013 campaign.
The opportunity to return to a team that seems to have an excellent chance to contend again isn't the only reason Morton is pumped about continuing to wear a Pirates uniform.
"To be honest, it wasn't really a decision based on what happened last year," Morton said. "It was more of a decision based on the organization as a whole -- the personnel top to bottom -- and the city.
"Being on a good team is great, but I wanted to be a Pirate because I believe in what's going on here. I believe in the people I work for and the people I work with. I've said this before, but I want to be a Pirate, and the only way I can be a Pirate is to sign with the Pirates."
Stewart encourages discussion on plate collisions
PIITSBURGH -- Catcher Chris Stewart, who was acquired from the Yankees on Dec. 1 to serve as Russell Martin's backup, considers himself a traditionalist. His initial reaction to the proposal to eliminate home plate collisions was: "I'm not a big fan of it."
For one thing, he believes it will give catchers too much leeway with blocking the plate and making baserunners go around them. Nonetheless, he does see the logic in the talks that have been taking place on the topic.
"There's too many injuries back there to catchers, too many guys getting rolled up on," Stewart said. "I don't know that it necessarily needs to be done, but I like the idea that the topic is being brought up. Conversations have happened with us, the players union, the umpires and Major League Baseball. We're all cohesively trying to come to a conclusion on what's best for the entire game, not just best for us catchers or best for the runners. The conversations are a huge step toward getting where we need to be."
Jim Lachimia is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.