Neil Walker might be shut down early


Neil Walker has been in and out of the Pirates’ starting lineup for the past four weeks because of lingering lower back tightness and muscle spasms.

And his return to full-time duty is not imminent.

According to Tom Singer of, the second baseman could be shut down for the final week of the regular season to avoid making the issue any worse. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle told reporters Wednesday that Walker’s energy is “not at major league levels” and that he’s relying on adrenaline to push through the discomfort in his back:

“When he feels good, adrenaline can flare up and he can play,” said Hurdle. “And there’s days he can’t. You don’t want to not let a man play who wants to play and is capable of playing. The energy he has at the start has been tough to maintain. I just know that when he does play, the next day he’s not at the same comfort level as he’d been the morning before.

Yeah, we’re talking about it.”

Walker is batting .280/.342/.426 with 14 homers, 27 doubles and 69 RBI in 129 games played this year.

The Bucs were officially eliminated from playoff contention after Wednesday night’s 6-0 loss to the Mets.

Chris Sale will start on Opening Day for Red Sox

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No surprise here: Chris Sale will start on Opening Day for the Red Sox, Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe reports. The Red Sox open the season on March 29 in Tampa Bay against the Rays. Sale will oppose Chris Archer.

Sale, 28, is the fifth different Opening Day starter the Red Sox have had in as many years, preceded by Rick Porcello, David Price, Clay Buchholz, and Jon Lester. Sale started on Opening Day for the White Sox in 2013, ’14, and ’16.

Sale finished second in AL Cy Young Award balloting last year and finished ninth for AL MVP. He went 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA and a 308/43 K/BB ratio in 214 1/3 innings. Sale and Clayton Kershaw (2015) are the only pitchers to strike out 300 or more batters in a season dating back to 2003.