Neil Walker picked up two of the three hits that the Pirates were able to counter off the Brewers’ Yovani Gallardo on Tuesday night at PNC Park. But it was towards the end of that nine inning game that Manager Clint Hurdle said that Walker, who felt strong in the middle of the game, felt that get away from him late. It’s what forced Walker out of the lineup on Wednesday as he continues to be day-to-day with low back tightness.
“It’s challenging right now just because there was never a time to re-strengthen,” Hurdle said. “He gives us what he can give us, and there’s a fall back time. Today seems to be one of those days where I think we’re going to be best served to push away from him with the thought that he can get back in tomorrow. It might be every other day. It might be two days, then off a day. We’re just going to have to take it day by day.”
Walker played in back-to-back games in Chicago on Saturday and Sunday. That came a day after pinch-hitting with the bases loaded in Friday’s loss to the Cubs. Walker missed 16 games due to the back injury, in which the club posted just a 4-12 record. One of the issues now with the time down has been the strength lost from playing everyday.
“It’s the point where his legs aren’t functioning to the point you’d like them to be,” Hurdle said. “I think the back leads into that. The time down helped him get out. He felt real strong through the middle of the game yesterday, then it got away from him late. He tried to push through it the best that he could. He wasn’t feeling as good today, as he did at the end of the night. It’s a downwards spiral. Time down, then he seems to recapture and rejuvenate. We’ll do what we can with a day-by-day scenario with him. He wants to get out there, but if he can’t function the way that he needs to at least be able to be competitive, then it doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
“It’s go as [he] can tolerate. He’ll be the first one to tell you that it’s been challenging to him, because he woke up yesterday feeling great. And then he wakes up today feeling not real well…There’s nothing alarming that says, you know what? We are possibly doing more damage than good. When he feel strong, we’re going to go. And when he doesn’t, we’re going to back away.”
Hurdle has had his fair share of recent injuries with the club towards the stretch of the season. Rookie Brock Holt has stepped in and played second base in Walker’s absence. Holt made 11 straight starts and went 16-for-49 (.327 avg) during that span. Hurdle has had to juggle the lineup with several other injuries in the lineup recently with Travis Snider (hamstring), Jose Tabata and Alex Presley — both after taking pitches off their foot.
“You lean upon the trainers and their knowledge, their techniques, and the players’ ability to play through some things from time to time,” Hurdle said. “Sometimes 85% might be all they have, and if they can give us that, it might be better than 100% of somebody else.”
Other Injury Updates
— Travis Snider returned to the lineup on Wednesday. It marked just his second start since re-injuring his hamstring on September 4th. Hurdle said before the game that they have been trying to find a way to get him back to 100 percent, and believed they have gotten him to that place. Snider went 1-for-4 on the day.
— Jeff Karstens allowed one run on two hits over three frames with two strikeouts on Wednesday in relief. It was his first appearance since August 31st, when he was removed in the second inning after re-injuring his right hip flexor. Hurdle said before the game that they have been itching for a spot to get him going. Karstens was not going to come in mid inning or for just one frame, but for length in order to get him stretched out and moving forward. Hurdle said a simulated game was plan B if they were unable to get him an opportunity on Wednesday.
“The health [has] not [been] the issue, we just need to get him on the mound,” Hurdle said prior to the game. “The biggest question when he gets on the mound will be when he goes out there sits down, goes out there, sits down, goes back out there…Just to keep him sharp and fresh.”