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.

Padres ride double-decker tour bus to AT&T Park

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
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On Sunday morning, the Padres planned to take a bus from their hotel in San Francisco to AT&T Park ahead of their afternoon game. The bus never showed. MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell reports that team director of player and staff services TJ Lasita flagged down an empty San Francisco tour bus, negotiated a rate, and got his players an impromptu ride to the ballpark.

The Padres’ Twitter account and Annie Heilbrunn of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweeted pictures and video:

The Padres and Giants are playing the rubber match of their three-game series this afternoon. The Padres will then travel to Arlington for a series with the Rangers. The Giants will welcome the Rockies.