Walker, Paul should return this weekend

Walker, Paul should return this weekend

WASHINGTON -- Manager Clint Hurdle held second baseman Neil Walker and outfielder Xavier Paul out of the lineup again on Friday against the Nationals, but both should be available off the bench, if needed.

Hurdle said Walker's sore back improved significantly after receiving Thursday off in Toronto, and Walker expects to play one of Saturday's doubleheader games. The Pirates play day games on Sunday in Washington and on Monday at home against Houston, and Hurdle is unsure how he will use Walker at that point.

"I think [Walker's] much better today," Hurdle said on Friday, "and we'll use him as the game dictates, if needed."

Hurdle did not speak with Paul, who sat the previous two games with a tight right hamstring, before meeting with the media, but the left fielder expects to be available off the bench.

Paul ran sprints in the outfield at Nationals Park and said everything felt fine.

"I feel pretty much normal," Paul said after also hitting in the batting cage. "I should be ready to go today. I know they have a lefty [Tom Gorzelanny] going, but if they need me at any point throughout the game, I should be ready."