Neil Walker tried to help his team as much as he could in the final month of the season after suffering a low back injury. But after a difficult decision, Walker said that it would best serve himself and the Pirates for him to be shutdown the remainder of the season.
“I wont play the rest of the season,” Walker said in front of his locker prior to the game on Friday. “I’m shut down. That’s where we’re at. That was the decision that we made. I wanted to ponder over it a few days ago. It’s more beneficial for this organization for me, because even if I’m not playing, but I end up taking batting practice and swinging that are things that are not helping me right now.”
“I don’t want to portray this situation as me quitting on the team, because that’s certainly not the case…My goal was to get back and help this team as much as I could. I couldn’t do that for three weeks. Swinging was not exactly the issue, it was all the other things. It was running the bases, it was fielding ground balls. It was being out on the field for three hours. It’s not as bad as what it could be. I’ve seen a lot of people. I’m going to see the best people in the business. I just don’t want this thing to carry on.”
Walker, who was originally slated to see doctors on Friday, did not go to his appointment. He said with the time frame of the flight home from New York on Thursday that it didn’t work out, but that he will be going to see several people next week. Walker, however, did get an update on his back, which forced him out of the lineup for nearly three weeks and to miss four straight games on the road. Walker has a herniated disc in his back.
“Its frustrating,” Walker said. “The diagnosis is that I have a herniated disc in my back. I tried to play through it as much as I could. My goal was to help this team as much as I could. When I got back on the field I got as much as I could. I’m sure people were probably raising eyebrows when I would play one day and not play for a few days. But the fact of the matter is that rest is the biggest thing for this situation. It’s getting better. But rest is important.”
“Obviously with a herniated [disc] you’re going to have some numbing, some tingling down the leg where you have it. That’s kind of what I went through for about a week and a half after it happened in early September. Getting back I didn’t really have a lot of pain, I wasn’t restricted in what I was doing. I had a lot of residual effects when I started to run again. My leg was very sore.”
One positive for Walker will be that he doesn’t need to undergo back surgery.
“As far as surgery goes, in talking with all the specialists and they’ve seen all the MRI’s, that’s not necessary,” Walker said. “They’ve seen a lot of these situations, and none of them thought it was at that level. That’s obviously very encouraging. All of them have said as long as I’m taking care of myself and doing the things I need to do, making sure that my back is in a good place, then nothing more is going to happen. Whether it was a weakness situation in my core, in my back, in my hamstrings, we don’t know that answer. I’m just going to have to stay on top of things and really put my focus this off-season into making sure everything is in the right place.”
Walker finishes the season with a .280/.342/.426 line over 129 games and hit a career-best 14 home runs. The second baseman said that the final six games of the season he will stop hitting, taking grounders, etc., to really get a head start on this offseason and into spring training.
“I lost a lot of sleep over it,” Walker said. “I feel very intertwined into this team, into this city. I wanted to get back as much as I could. And when I came back, I knew that I wasn’t 100 percent, and knew that I wasn’t 85 percent. I felt that I could still help the team in some way shape or form. I don’t know if I did or didn’t I don’t know if I hurt the team. This last month for all of us has been tough. We are where we are. My individual situation here, I got to do everything I can to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future. I don’t think it will.”