Pirates notebook: Walker optimistic he can avoid trip to DL

Continued tightness in Neil Walker's back forced manager Clint Hurdle to remove Walker from Sunday's lineup, one day after a late-game appearance pointed toward a return to action, though Walker remains on the active roster.

Walker missed five out of six games because of the tightness, and the one game he played, on Tuesday, he left early. He pinch-hit Saturday night and said he expected to return to the lineup Sunday, but continued spasms kept him from playing.

"Whether it's my lower back or mid-back or hamstring or whatever it may be, it's just tightening up on me," Walker said. "I've had the hardest time getting it back to square one."

Walker said he did not think he would go on the disabled list.

"I'm just taking it day by day," he said. "[Sunday] wasn't a great day for me, but I've seen a back specialist. Nothing is alarming to him, nothing is alarming to me."

Because Walker pinch-hit Saturday, the Pirates cannot make a possible DL stint retroactive.

"It is what it is," Hurdle said. "I don't have a crystal ball, we don't have a crystal ball, he doesn't have a crystal ball. To second-guess or get disappointed because of something you tried to do because you all felt comfortable, no. Not at all. Move on."

Walker's back issue is different from the herniated disc that ended his season in 2012, according to Walker and general manager Neal Huntington. Walker said he has played through similar issues before with treatment.

"But how do we make sure it doesn't progress or get worse?" Huntington said. "That's where we've tried to be cautious, tried to give him some time here and there."

McCutchen update

Huntington called Andrew McCutchen's recovery from the avulsion fracture in his rib a week ago "remarkable," but said McCutchen needs more improvement before returning.

"Is he game-ready? No," Huntington said. "But the next step will be to determine how quickly he can be game-ready."

McCutchen said the torque of a full-strength swing, rather than sliding or diving on the rib, presented the biggest challenge in his recovery.

"If you ask me, I feel good enough, but at the same time you've got to be cautious," he said.

The Pirates are granting McCutchen the time to recover without going on the DL yet, their thought process being that even missing 11 or 12 days instead of the requisite 15 would benefit the team. Playing can worsen his injury, so they are cautious.

Playing the Field

The Pirates claimed middle infielder Tommy Field off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels and optioned him to Class AAA Indianapolis.

Field, 27, bats right-handed and plays shortstop and second base. He hit .285 with a .351 on-base percentage, seven home runs and 18 doubles for Class AAA Salt Lake this season, but has a .495 on-base plus slugging percentage in 81 major league plate appearances spread across three seasons.

The move filled the Pirates' 40-man roster.

Cole makes another start

Gerrit Cole allowed one hit in six scoreless innings in a rehab start for Class AAA Indianapolis.

Cole, who is on the 15-day DL because of pain in the right latissimus dorsi muscle in his back, struck out three with no walks and threw 73 pitches.

Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and Twitter @BrinkPG.

First Published August 9, 2014 9:00 PM

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