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Walker ready to take swings

Pirates second baseman Neil Walker is batting.280 with 14 homers and 69 RBI. AP

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vs. Cubs

7:05 p.m., today, PNC Park

TV/radio: Root Sports/KDKA-FM (93.7), XM 185

Probable pitchers: Cubs LHP Travis Wood (4-11, 4.64 ERA) vs. Pirates RHP A.J. Burnett (15-5, 3.63);

7:05 p.m. Saturday: Cubs RHP Jeff Samardzija (8-13, 3.91) vs. Pirates RHP James McDonald (12-7, 3.90)

1:35 p.m. Sunday, Cubs LHP Chris Rusin (0-2, 9.00) vs. Pirates LHP Jeff Locke (0-1, 4.82)

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Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012, 8:34 p.m.

Neil Walker (back tightness) will take batting practice in the next few days to see how his lower back reacts to the torque of a swinging a bat. Walker, who has missed the past nine games, took ground balls on Wednesday.

“The past couple days we've pushed the envelope as far as movement and seeing how far I could go, and my body has responded very well,” he said. “These next couple days will be big for me.”

Walker is unsure if he will ready for this weekend's series against the visiting Cubs. He has more home runs (7) and RBI (27) against the Cubs than any other team.

“I have to listen to my body,” he said. “I'm close. I just can't put a day on it.”

• Second baseman Brock Holt, who Tuesday became only the second Pirates player since 1900 to have a four-hit game within his first four career games in the majors, got a start against left-hander Fernando Abad on Wednesday. All 13 of Holt's previous major league at-bats were against right-handers.

“You've got to like what you see,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It's not an accident that the kid has hit everywhere he has been. He can swing the bat. We'll see where it goes.”

The only other Pirates player to have a four-hit game so early in his career was Jack Merson, who went 4 for 5 in his second big-league game on Sept. 15, 1951. Merson played in 125 games and was out of the majors by 1953.

Regardless, Holt is getting a swamped on Twitter and text messages.

“The past couple days I've finally caught up with getting back to everyone who congratulated me (for being called up),” Holt said. “Last night (Tuesday), I got bombarded again.”

• Andrew McCutchen is getting over his micro-slump. The All-Star center fielder, who watched his batting average drop 27 points in August, was hitting .412 in September entering last night's game. On Tuesday, he went 4 for 4 and drove in three runs. It was his first 3-RBI effort in a nine-inning game since July 8. McCutchen hit .252 in August with 27 strikeouts in 107 at-bats.

“It's all about me knowing what I can do and knowing what I need to do,” he said. “As of late, I was really wasn't doing that. I was swinging at pitches that I shouldn't be swinging at. I had to get back to my foundation. I feel like that's what I did (Tuesday).”

Said Hurdle, “Definitely a good sign.”

• Outfielder Travis Snider (hamstring) is expected to miss “a few days,” according to Hurdle. Snider felt his hamstring tighten running to first base on Tuesday and was pulled from the game.

“I'll come back at the end of the week and see how it goes,” Snider said. “I've managed it for the last month or so.”

• Leftfielder Jose Tabata (left foot contusion) was a late scratch. He hit a ball off his foot during a Tuesday night at-bat against the Astros.

• Starling Marte started in center field for Triple-A Indy on Wednesday in the International League playoffs. He is expected to start in the outfield again Thursday.

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