One month ago — and most months this season — it would’ve been easy for the Yankees to remove Neil Walker from the roster. Now, it’s getting harder and harder to even take him out of the lineup.
Walker’s recent offensive surge hit a new height in Thursday’s 7-3 win over the Rangers, as the veteran tallied his career sixth multi-homer game, and homered from both sides of the plate for the first time in his career.
After hitting just three home runs in his first 73 games of the season, Walker now has hit three in the past four games.
“It took a long time,” Walker said of the new feat. “I did it one time in the minor leagues. Pretty special in terms of being a switch hitter.”
Walker, who went 2-for-4, is now batting .333 (22-for-66) over his past 21 games, and has raised his batting average to .226, while easing the void of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez.
On July 8, the now-vital utility man was hitting .185.
“I know what kind of hitter he is,” manager Aaron Boone said. “It’s nice, right now, when we are beat up, you know when he’s gonna be in there that he’s swinging the bat like the Neil Walker we’ve seen most of his career.”
After watching Miguel Andujar hit a two-run homer to put the Yankees up 4-1 in the fourth inning, Walker made it back-to-back blasts, taking a changeup from Ariel Jurado into the second deck in right field.
Walker returned to the plate in the sixth inning — hitting as a righty for the first time of the night —and hit a 1-2 curveball from Matt Moore barely over the left-field fence for his sixth home run of the season.
Walker has spent most of his first season with the Yankees figuring out how to handle sporadic at-bats for the first time in his career, but the team’s injuries have created enough at-bats for him to escape a season-long slump.
“Obviously it helps a lot,” Walker said. “You’re stacking up at-bats, righty, lefty, against starters, against relievers, those are important at-bats regardless of situation. The older you are, the more quickly you’re able to make the adjustments, but the constant at-bats certainly help.”
To get Walker more at-bats, Boone said he’d consider using the veteran in the outfield. Prior to playing three total innings in right field this season, the 32-year-old had never played the outfield in his major league career.
“It’s certainly something I’m willing to do,” Walker said. “Obviously, anything to help the team, and to be on the field. Whatever they ask me to do is what I’m gonna do. We haven’t quite gone down that road yet, but I’m gonna make sure in the next several days that I’m taking some balls in left and right [field], just in case.”
Article credit: https://nypost.com/2018/08/10/what-a-difference-a-month-makes-for-neil-walker/?src=rss