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Pirates notebook: Walker may be headed to DL with back pain

| Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014, 2:12 p.m.
The Pirates' Neil Walker takes batting practice before a game against the Padres Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
The Pirates' Neil Walker takes batting practice before a game against the Padres Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, at PNC Park.
The Pirates' Neil Walker takes batting practice before a game against the Padres Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
The Pirates' Neil Walker takes batting practice before a game against the Padres Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, at PNC Park.

Neil Walker said after Sunday's game that he's still hoping to avoid a move to the disabled list despite indications from management that it may be inevitable.

Manager Clint Hurdle hoped to have his second baseman back for the finale against the San Diego Padres after a pinch-hit appearance Saturday, but that didn't happen.

“His back didn't respond as he or we hoped (Sunday),” general manager Neal Huntington said. “We'll see how he feels after getting some more treatment and going through some work and make a determination after the game and/or (Monday).”

Walker missed a pair of games in Arizona at the end of the Pirates' most recent road trip and blamed the problem on bad hotel beds. After a day off Monday, he played Tuesday but was out of the lineup again Wednesday. He pinch hit in the ninth inning Saturday and struck out.

Walker said he has seen a back specialist, who found nothing alarming.

“It's just a matter of letting this thing calm down a little bit,” said Walker, who described the problem as spasms. “That's where we are. I've attacked this several different ways in the past and been able to play through it. It's just listening to your body. I felt like I was able to play (Sunday), but when I got (to PNC Park), it didn't feel like I could play a full nine innings.”

If Walker goes on the DL, the Pirates won't be able to back date it because of the pinch-hitting appearance Saturday. Hurdle said he doesn't regret the decision.

“I don't have a crystal ball,” Hurdle said. “To second-guess or get disappointed because something you tried to do that you all felt comfortable (doing), no. Not at all. Move on. That's the way we're built.”

The Pirates are considering how to prevent Walker's back problems from getting worse, Huntington said.

“He woke up (Sunday) feeling not quite as good, and now we have to take a step and make sure that we don't allow this to regress and don't put ourselves in a position of him having to miss a lot more time,” Huntington said.

McCutchen making ‘remarkable' progress

Huntington said “remarkable” was the best word he could think of to describe Andrew McCutchen's progress coming back from a rib injury.

“He's been completely honest with us, and we've ramped up some things and slowed down some things based on how he's feeling,” Huntington said. “It's been a fascinating process. It's an injury atypical for baseball. It's a torque-based injury, and obviously, he creates a ton of torque when he swings the bat.

“There are still hurdles to clear. But we are optimistic, and I'm not sure anyone could work harder or be more positive about the process than Andrew has been so far.”

Pirates claim infielder Field

The Pirates claimed infielder Tommy Field off waivers from Anaheim and optioned him to Triple-A Indianapolis.

The Angels designated the 27-year-old for assignment Thursday after he was hitting .285 with seven home runs, 33 RBIs and 55 runs scored in 80 games with their Triple-A Salt Lake affiliate. The former Colorado draft pick had five stints in the majors last year.

Alvarez subs in at third

Pedro Alvarez has been taken out late in several games this season because of his defensive struggles at third base, but he entered at third in the eighth inning Sunday.

The Pirates are working on moving him to first base because it represents the best option for this season, Huntington said, but both sides are committed to Alvarez playing third in the future.

“In our minds, Pedro is still a third baseman,” Huntington said. “We're going to work as hard as we can to get Pedro through this throwing challenge.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

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