ST. LOUIS -- Two days after writhing in agony with a dislocated finger in the infield dirt of PNC Park, Neil Walker was back doing baseball stuff at Busch Stadium. Very light stuff, mind you, but the Pirates second baseman has at least embarked on the road to recovery and return. "It's a little better than it was (Thursday)," Walker said before the Bucs opened a three-game series against the Cardinals. "Played a little catch and throw, which was good. The swelling is still there -- that will be important in this whole piece, getting the swelling out.
"We're experimenting with a little splint with some mobility. Playing catch felt awkward. And I didn't take ground balls; that'll be the next slow step. In the meantime, a lot of icing, and I have some good medication." There is no timetable for Walker's return, but it seems extremely unlikely that he will be able to participate in this set against the Cards, who opened the series one game behind the second-place Pirates in the National League Central standings. "He's very limited. We're figuring out what he's capable of doing," Bucs manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's been very aggressive with his efforts to figure out what he can, and can't, do." "It's a very small sample size," Walker said of his Friday workout, "but based on the last 48 hours to today, I'm pretty encouraged. I should get pretty quickly to doing what I need to do to get back." Jordy Mercer again started at second base on Friday, teaming with shortstop Clint Barmes in the temporary double-play combination.