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Walker to enter spring in 'best shape of his life'

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A "best shape of his life" alert to perk one's ears: That's what Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said about Neil Walker, and it's very significant considering the second baseman's 2012 season was shut down due to a herniated disk.

According to the GM, Walker "is getting close to getting into his [regular] offseason routine after a great rehab program."

"The rehab went really well, and he's worked his tail off and looks forward to coming into Spring Training in the best shape of his life."

Dinged by a dislocated right little finger shortly before the more enfeebling back issue, Walker had only 52 at-bats after Aug. 15.

"He's done with all the medical recovery," said manager Clint Hurdle, an offseason Pittsburgh resident who has kept in closer contact with the player. "Within the last two weeks, he actually started his strength and conditioning program. I had lunch with him right before that. He's in a very good place, ready to go."