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Pirates notebook: Back sidelines Walker for rest of season

| Friday, Sept. 28, 2012, 4:18 p.m.
Christopher Horner
The Pirates' Neil Walker walks to the dugout after striking out during the ninth inning against the Brewers on Thursday, September 20, 2012, at PNC Park. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)
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BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 26: Infielder Neil Walker #18 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photo during photo day at Pirate City on February 26, 2012 in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Hobbled by a herniated disc in his lower back, second baseman Neil Walker will be shut down for the rest of the season.

Walker has not started since Monday, when he went 2 for 3 with a walk against the New York Mets. He missed 16 straight games from Aug. 27 to Sept. 14 due to the injury, and the Pirates went 4-12 in that stretch.

“I don't want to portray this as me quitting on the team,” Walker said. “It's frustrating (because) my goal was to get back and help this team as much as I could. I tried to play through it as much as I could. I'm sure I was raising eyebrows when I'd play one day and then not play again for a few days. It's getting better, but rest is important.”

A few days ago, during the series in New York, manager Clint Hurdle gave Walker the option of sitting out the rest of the year.

“I lost a lot of sleep over it,” Walker said. “Swinging (a bat) is not the issue. The issue is all the other things: running the bases, fielding ground balls, being on my feet for three hours.”

Walker said he will meet with several back specialists next week. Surgery is not considered to be necessary.

The Pirates tried to sign Walker to a multiyear contract a year ago. Those contract talks have since stopped, and Walker will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason.

“I'm open to talks this offseason or in spring training,” Walker said. “If they want to try to use (the injury for leverage), they can. Regardless, my focus is on the arbitration process.”

Walker will end the year with a .280 batting average. He ranks fourth among National League second basemen with 69 RBI and fifth with 14 home runs.

• Hurdle decided to keep right-hander Jeff Karstens in the bullpen for the rest of the season. Karstens has not started since Aug. 31, when he lasted 13 inning against the Milwaukee Brewers before leaving with a hip pointer injury. He made 15 starts this season and went 5-4 with a 3.89 ERA. Karstens, who is making $3.1 million, has one year of arbitration eligibility remaining.

— Rob Biertempfel

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