While the Pirates have struggled with injuries over the past couple of weeks, help is on the way.
When it arrives is still to be determined.
It appears second baseman Neil Walker, dealing with lower-back tightness, will not be healthy enough to return for s weekend series against the Chicago Cubs.
"I'm close," Walker said. "I just can't put a day on it."
He took grounders Wednesday at PNC Park. He tried taking some swings in the batting cages earlier this week, but that was shut down quickly.
"The last couple days, we pushed the envelope a little bit," Walker said, adding he hopes to resume batting practice in the next few days.
His body has responded well, for the most part, he said, but there is still some tightness and limitation. But the most taxing ailment has been his mentality, forced to watch from the dugout as his team battles for a playoff spot.
"That's the most frustrating part of the whole process is being an everyday player, playing the whole year and then in a more magnified part of the season, having something like this hinder you for a while," he said.
The Pirates could be close to welcoming outfielder Starling Marte back into the mix. Marte, on the 15-day disabled list with a right oblique strain, went 0 for 5 in a rehabilitation start Tuesday for short-season State College. His rehab was transferred to Class AAA Indianapolis Wednesday, and he will play there again today as the Indians compete in the International League playoffs.
Marte was State College's designated hitter Tuesday and played center field Wednesday for Indianapolis.
"I felt that it would be challenging to play games without them," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Marte and Walker.
"We've run a couple different men out to left field, and Marte was cutting his teeth at the major league level, but he also was showing you the things you want to see."
The Pirates spent most of the season with Tony Watson as their sole left-handed relief pitcher. But their left-handed pitching depth has increased in the past few weeks.
The Pirates claimed Hisanori Takahashi off waivers Aug. 24 and called up Justin Wilson from Class AAA Indianapolis Sept. 1, one of the team's five September call-ups.
"We can get a little more creative down there," Watson said. "Clint can be, I guess."
Though he was the lone left-hander, Watson was not used only in left-against-left situations. Watson has proven versatile enough to attack right-handed batters, and some of the Pirates right-handed pitchers have been successful against left-handed hitters, Hurdle said.
Now with three left-handed relievers in his bullpen, Hurdle can give some of those pitchers a rest in traditional left-against-left situations.
"You get an option to use some left-on-left guys earlier than later," Hurdle said. "It gives you a better way to attack systematically."
Travis Snider, who experienced some discomfort in his right hamstring Tuesday night while running the bases, was not in the lineup Wednesday and could miss a few games.
He said he woke up sore Wednesday and that the injury felt similar to the one he sustained a month ago, which also kept him off the field for several games.
Jose Tabata, who replaced Snider in the game Tuesday night, was a late scratch from the lineup Wednesday because of a left foot contusion. Tabata fouled a ball off his foot Tuesday and hobbled around the batter's box.
After a visit from the trainer and Hurdle, he stayed in the game.
He was replaced Wednesday by Alex Presley, who batted eighth. Tabata originally was slotted to hit second.
Michael Sanserino: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1722 or on Twitter@msanserino.