Herniated disc in back ends Walker's season

Herniated disc in back ends Walker's season

PITTSBURGH -- Neil Walker offered a pair of revelations Friday afternoon: He has a herniated disc in his back, and he will not play the rest of the season.

The likelihood of the Pirates' second baseman shutting it down has hung in the air for a few days, so confirmation of that decision wasn't unexpected.

Full disclosure of his diagnosis, however, was news. Since Walker was first shelved on Aug. 27, his condition was generally described as "lower back tightness."

Walker has been reassured surgery will not be necessary.

"All the specialists have seen all the MRIs, and none of them thought it was at that level," Walker said. "They all said that as long as I'm taking care of myself, nothing more is going to happen. I have to put my focus this offseason on making sure everything is in the right place."

Shutting it down now, with six games to go, gives Walker a jump on that agenda. Rejoining the starting lineup on Sept. 15 and playing on-and-off since hasn't accomplished anything he'd hoped for, such as helping the team end its skid.

"My goal was to help the team as much as I could," said Walker, who had started six of 13 games since his return. "People probably raised their eyebrows when I would play one day and not play for a few days.

"Rest is the biggest thing for this situation. So I won't play the rest of the season. I'm shut down. That's where we're at."

Walker ends his season batting .280, with a career-high 14 homers and 69 RBIs. However, he had 65 of those RBIs by Aug. 8. Eligible for salary arbitration for the first time this offseason, Walker did not know how his injury might affect possible talks about a long-term contract.

"If they want to try to use it, they can," he said. "Regardless, my focus is on the arbitration process. I'm open to talks this offseason. When the season starts, my focus is on that, but if they want to talk in Spring Training or after the season, I'm open to that."