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Walker improves, but sits out another game

PITTSBURGH -- For the second consecutive night -- and fourth out of the last five games -- the Pirates were without second baseman Neil Walker (back tightness).

Walker has been bothered by the back issue since the tail end of a 10-game road trip that concluded in Arizona over the weekend. Even when the second baseman started on Tuesday, he was pulled after seven innings when he re-aggravated his back.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Walker felt better and possibly would take some swings in the batting cage before Thursday night's series finale against the Marlins. Walker will continue to receive treatment on his back, and when he is reinserted into the Bucs' lineup, Hurdle doesn't want it to come with any other complications.

"There was some improvement," Hurdle said. "I'm trusting the people I talk to, and I'm trusting Neil. What he felt was real the first time back, and seemed to me maybe too quick. I'm going to give him more time, so the next time we plug him in, we can keep him there."

Walker's absence and that of Andrew McCutchen (fractured rib), left Hurdle with just three position players off the bench for the second night in a row.

McCutchen, who got hurt on a swing Sunday against the D-backs, remains off the disabled list -- at least for now. Hurdle reiterated the team's initial stance that the reigning National League MVP could be healthy enough to play sometime in the next two weeks.

"He's gotten better, and he's adding more to his return to recovery routine," Hurdle said. "It's still wait and see. There's a chance [he could avoid the DL]."

However, the Pirates are going to have to make a roster move when they activate Pedro Alvarez from the bereavement list, which could happen soon. Hurdle said nothing is "cement," but there is a chance the third baseman could be at PNC Park on Thursday night and be activated on Friday.

Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for
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