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.

Video: White Sox turn triple play against Astros

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White Sox starter Iván Nova was able to escape a jam in the third inning of Wednesday night’s game against the Astros with the help of a triple play. Nova had allowed a leadoff double to Tony Kemp, then hit Robinson Chirinos with a pitch to put runners on first and second base with no outs. Facing Jake Marisnick in a 1-1 count, Nova threw a 94 MPH fastball that Marisnick sharply grounded to Yoán Moncada right at the third base bag. Moncada quickly fired the ball to Yolmer Sánchez at second base, then Sánchez whipped the ball to José Abreu at first base just ahead of a lunging Marisnick to complete the triple-killing.

According to Baseball Almanac, it’s the 718th known triple play dating back to 1876. The last time the White Sox turned a triple play was 2016. They turned three triple plays that season, amusingly. The Astros have been victimized by two of the last three triple plays, having also hit into one on April 19 last year against the Mariners.