The Pirates are going to send Neil Walker to minor league camp.

Don't panic. The Pittsburgh Kid still is the starting second baseman. There's logic behind having Walker play some innings against the Triple-A Durham Bulls or Double-A Trenton Thunder on a day the Pirates are facing the New York Yankees.

Blame a lack of left-handed pitchers. Walker scuffled last year against southpaws, but it's hard to figure them out without facing them often in spring training. So when lefties are scheduled to pitch in minor league games, Walker will catch a ride from McKechnie Field to Pirate City to put in his work.

Some stats wonks insist it would be better for Walker to give up switch-hitting. He said that would be running from a problem, not finding a solution.

“I'll always be a switch-hitter,” Walker said Thursday. “The critics can say this or that about hitting left-handed (full-time). But if they'd ever try to hit a left-hander's slider (while batting) left-handed, they'd reconsider.”

Walker's struggles last year were not limited to lefties. Many of his stats were significantly lower, he made two trips to the disabled list and he was not a factor at the plate in the playoffs.

“I was battling myself for most of the year,” Walker said. “I just got in a place where I was treading water, trying to force things. I tried to do too much at certain times, and that's just not necessary. I know I'm a better player than what the numbers show.”

Regardless of what camp he's in, Walker has plenty to work on during spring training. He wants to get back to his roots as a gap-to-gap hitter.

Walker hit 16 home runs last season, the most by a Pirates second baseman since Bill Mazeroski slugged 16 in 1966. Yet, despite having about the same number of at-bats with runners in scoring position, Walker drove in fewer runs (53) than he did a year earlier (69).