If Mets 2B Neil Walker was disappointed by being traded from the Pirates to the Mets, it hasn't shown in his performance. Walker returns to his hometown for the first time since being dealt for Jon Niese, who'll also make his debut against his former club in Monday night's opener of a three-game series.
In need of shedding salary and adding an experienced arm to the rotation, the Pirates sent Walker to the Mets for Niese in December. The Pittsburgh native was his hometown team's first-round pick in 2004 and spent the previous six seasons as their starting second baseman.
"I feel like I gave my all in Pittsburgh with the time I was there," he told MLB.com. "I was on a lot of winning teams, and made a lot of strides individually and as a group. Hopefully, I'll be received well."
Walker seems to be feeling at home in New York, leading all NL second basemen with 13 home runs while hitting .279 in 53 games. He enters his former park with a .366 average over his last 12.
Niese (5-2, 4.36 ERA), who compiled a 61-61 record with a 3.93 ERA in eight seasons with the Mets, got his Pirates tenure off to a rocky beginning by posting a 5.94 through his first six starts. He's been sharp of late, though, going 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA over his last four.
Niese's first encounter with the Mets comes against a lineup that's been without some of its biggest bats. David Wright and Lucas Duda are on the disabled list with potentially long-term injuries, and Yoenis Cespedes didn't start the final two games of the team's series in Miami due to a sore right hip.
Pittsburgh (30-26) is hitting .293 while averaging five runs per game at home, though it's lost seven of nine overall after blowing a late lead in Sunday's 5-4 defeat to the Angels. After Los Angeles scored twice off Gerrit Cole in the seventh inning to pull within 4-3, Albert Pujols hit a two-run homer off Tony Watson in the eighth.
Copyright 2016 by The Associated Press