As off-the-field news buzzes, Neil Walker remains focused on returning to form on it.
Walker, 31, got off to a strong start this season but was placed on the disabled list in mid-June and has gone 3-for-27 since returning to the lineup July 28. He also cleared waivers over the weekend, a move that would allow the Mets to trade him this month.
“I knew that it was coming,” Walker said before fouling out as a pinch hitter in Sunday night’s 8-0 loss to the Dodgers. “I knew that situation was going to arise and there was probably a good chance I was going to clear waivers. It doesn’t real ly affect me. We’re groomed to go day to day here and to keep working hard and go out and compete.”
The pending free agent could be an asset for a contender. Walker hit .282 with a .347 on-base percentage, .476 slugging percentage and 23 home runs last season. He hit .270 with an .820 OPS and nine home runs through his first 60 games this year before a partial hamstring tear landed him on the DL. In nine games since being reactivated, he has only a .218 OPS.
“Obviously, since I’ve gotten back, I haven’t played great,” he said, adding that he is optimistic that he will get back on track. “The leg is feeling a lot better. I just haven’t hit my stride. My timing and rhythm just haven’t been there and I haven’t been able to find the barrel as much as I’d like to, but we’re getting close.”
His manager said the Mets have missed him. “He’s a tremendous guy to have on our team, and if you look back, he was a big part of what happened last year before his back went down,” Terry Collins said in reference to Walker’s season-ending back surgery last September. “The fact that he’s hurt and trying to get back is why we sit where we are today because we needed him in the middle of this lineup.
“This guy is a winning kind of player. He knows what it takes. He’s a leader. He’s one of the guys who will say something in the clubhouse to somebody if things aren’t right.”
Walker is a lifetime .272/.337/.436 hitter. He spent his first seven seasons with Pittsburgh before being traded to the Mets in December 2015. In 182 games with the Mets, he has a .271 average and .799 OPS.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time here, and I guess we’ll see what happens,” he said of his future as a Met. “I haven’t really thought much more of it. My number one focus has been getting back from this injury and playing well and being healthy for the rest of the year.
“I’m open to it, to coming back here, but we haven’t had much communication since spring training about it.”