Neil Walker might be shut down early

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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 MLB.com, 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.

Kris Bryant exits game with sprained right ankle

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The Cubs had a scare on Wednesday night when third baseman Kris Bryant left with an apparent ankle injury. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Nationals catcher Matt Wieters hit a pop up that veered just into foul territory near the third base bag. Bryant caught it but his momentum took him back into fair territory. In doing so, he stepped awkwardly on the third base bag and appeared to twist his ankle. Bryant needed the assistance of manager Joe Maddon and the team trainer to get off the field.

Bryant was diagnosed with a mild ankle sprain, CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports.

Bryant was 2-for-3 on the night before departing and being replaced by Jeimer Candelario. He’s now hitting .264/.395/.520 with 16 home runs and 32 RBI in 329 plate appearances. Needless to say, the 39-39 Cubs would see their playoff odds hurt immensely if Bryant were to miss a significant amount of time.

Miguel Sano will participate in the 2017 Home Run Derby

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Hector Gomez reports Twins third baseman Miguel Sano will participate in the 2017 Home Run Derby, to be held in two weeks at Marlins Park in Miami. So far, Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is the only other confirmed participant.

Sano, 24, is having an outstanding season, batting .274/.375/.548 with 18 home runs and 53 RBI in 293 plate appearances. According to MLB’s Statcast, only Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge (96.7 MPH) has a higher average exit velocity than Sano (96.4 MPH).

Brian Dozier was the last member of the Twins to participate in the Home Run Derby. In 2014 at Target Field, Dozier failed to make it into the second round after hitting only two home runs. Justin Morneau is the only Twin to have ever won the Home Run Derby, as he beat Josh Hamilton 5-3 in the finals of the 2008 Derby at Yankee Stadium — although Hamilton out-homered him in total 35 to 22.