09/28/12 6:45 PM ET
Herniated disc in back ends Walker's season
Second baseman won't need surgery, will rest and prepare for '13
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
Winning record not Bucs' lone focus in stretch run
PITTSBURGH -- Manager Clint Hurdle acknowledged before the start of the Pirates' last homestand that, while important, breaking a 19-season streak of losing seasons has not been the team's lone September focus.Some lineup and pitching staff decisions have been made with an eye on 2013, in consultation both with his aides and with general manager Neal Huntington. "Up front, we've made sure to field a team that can win the game that night," Hurdle emphasized. "We have talked about personnel from a coaching angle and with Neal -- I got his perspective. "We've tried to keep [the push for .500 and planning for next season] in perspective. The two most significant things have been [Jeff] Locke and [Kyle] McPherson in the rotation. We believe in those guys." The Pirates have lost all seven of the starts made by rookies Locke and McPherson -- part of a 6-19 September that has seriously jeopardized their chances at those elusive 82 wins.
Manager Clint Hurdle left himself a little wriggle room -- "That's where we stand right now." -- but said plans are for Bucs to ride out the rotation. That means Kyle McPherson, Wandy Rodriguez, Jeff Locke, Kevin Correia and A.J. Burnett all get one more start. Sam LeCure, a third-year right-hander with the Reds, entering Friday night's game had yet to allow a hit to any of the Pirates, who were a collective 0-for-25 lifetime off him. That blew Hurdle's mind: "I've never had a guy this late in the season that we've seen a number of times and not have a hit off."
As part of the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Roberto Clemente's 3,000th career hit on Sunday, Clemente family members and former teammate Steve Blass will participate in a pregame ceremony. It will also be the Pirates' annual Fan Appreciation Day.
"I feel very entwined to this city and to this team. I don't want this portrayed as me quitting on this team. My goal was to come back and help as much as I could. But when I came back, I knew I wasn't even 85 percent. Rest is the biggest thing for this type of injury."
-- Pirates second baseman Neil Walker, on his decision to sit out the rest of the season with a herniated disc in his back
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.