Pirates bench Akinori Iwamura, move ex-catcher Neil Walker to second base

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Back in November the Pirates traded reliever Jesse Chavez to the Rays for Akinori Iwamura and then picked up his $4.85 million option for 2010, but manager John Russell announced today that they’re already cutting bait on the struggling second baseman.
Iwamura has batted just .173 in 44 games while showing decreased range defensively following knee surgery last year, so benching the 31-year-old in what is yet another rebuilding season for the Pirates makes sense. In fact, acquiring him in the first place seemed like an odd move for a non-contending team.
More surprising is that the Pirates have decided to replace Iwamura at second base with Neil Walker, who was just called up from Triple-A last week and has a grand total of 23 career games at second base. He was the 11th overall pick in the 2004 draft and moved to third base after not cutting it as a catcher, but he’d never played second base prior to this season and seems unlikely to be more than passable there.
Of course, in the short term the Pirates don’t lose much by taking a defensive hit to get him regular playing time and see what they have in Walker offensively long term, at which point they can better decide how he fits into the plans. Starting third baseman Andy LaRoche is hitting just .254 with a .685 OPS and now has a .669 OPS in 1,110 career plate appearances, so at age 26 he’s looking more and more like a full-blown bust.

Wilson Ramos suffers head injury on Ruben Tejada’s backswing

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Rays catcher Wilson Ramos had to exit Monday night’s game against the Orioles in the fifth inning after suffering a head injury. Ruben Tejada broke his bat on a ground out and the barrel hit Ramos in his helmet. Rich Dubroff reports that Ramos needed six staples to close a laceration on his head.

Ramos will continue to be evaluated under MLB’s concussion protocol. He may wind up on the seven-day concussion disabled list.

Ramos, 29, entered Monday’s action batting .222/.259/.426 with three home runs and 11 RBI in 59 plate appearances. He was 0-for-2 before being replaced by Jesus Sucre.

Video: Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop turn a sweet 5-4-3 double play

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Orioles third baseman Manny Machado and second baseman Jonathan Schoop teamed up to turn an impressive 5-4-3 double play in the bottom of the first inning of Monday night’s game against the Rays.

Steven Souza, Jr. led off the frame with a single. Corey Dickerson struck out, bringing Evan Longoria to the dish. Longoria sharply grounded a 1-2 fastball from Kevin Gausman to Machado, who showcased his strong arm with a perfect feed to Schoop at the second base bag despite his momentum taking him towards into territory. Schoop made an off-balance throw to first to complete the twin-killing.

The Orioles took the lead in the top of the third when Adam Jones hit a solo home run off of Ian Snell.