Walker and Gorzelanny Tabbed for Futures Game

Tom Gorzelanny

Neil Walker and Tom Gorzelanny, the Pirates' top hitting and pitching prospects, respectively, yesterday were selected to participate in Major League Baseball's eighth annual Futures Game July 9, part of All-Star weekend.

Walker a Pittsburgh native is thrilled to be coming back to PNC Park.

"I've dreamed of being a Pirate all my life and, hopefully, when the day comes that I play my first game there, it will be something like I think this is going to be," Walker told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It's really exciting."

The 20-year old Walker had the beginning of his season delayed a month by offseason wrist surgery. He is off to a slow start with Class A Lynchburg, and is batting .248 with one home run and 14 RBIs in 117 at-bats.

Last season he hit .298 with 12 home runs and 80 RBIs for Lynchburg and low Class A Hickory.

"I'm in a little slump right now, but I'm catching really well and working to get out of it at the plate," Walker said. "There haven't been any problems with the wrist, but it's a matter of getting the timing back, and the transition is tougher than we imagined. Obviously, getting the news about the Futures is a nice pick-me-up."

Gorzelanny,24, is one of only three participants with major-league experience, having made one start and two relief appearances for the Pirates last September.

Gorzelanny, the Pirates' second-round pick in the 2003 draft, has soilidified his status as the organization's top pitching prospect this season. In 15 starts with Triple-A Indianapolis, he has a 5-5 record and a 2.53 ERA that ranks eighth in the International League. He leads the league with 89 strikeouts.

"He has made improvements in the areas we've asked of him, which was command of his fastball and developing a second pitch such as a slider or changeup," said Brian Graham, the Pirates' director of player development. "He's also shown more maturity because of his Triple-A experience.

"All he can expect to get now is icing on the cake. We're not in a rush to get him to the majors, but it's good to know he's progressed as he has."

Walker and Gorzelanny are on the 25-man U.S. team roster, which will face the World team. The seven-inning game will begin at 4 p.m. and be televised nationally on ESPN2.

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