Neil Walker out with back injury, not close to contract extension with Pirates

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Neil Walker was a last-minute subtraction from the Pirates’ lineup today because of lower back soreness.

For now the Pirates are saying he’s likely to miss just 2-3 days, but it’ll be something to keep an eye on throughout camp.

Walker played 159 of a possible 162 games last season, but saw his production decline significantly from his rookie campaign, losing 23 points of batting average and 69 points of OPS.

And while the Pirates and Andrew McCutchen finalized a six-year, $51.5 million extension earlier this week, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review reports that a Walker deal “does not seem imminent” and “a lot of work still needs to be done.”

Walker is under team control through 2016, so there’s no big rush, but if the Pirates have faith in him being a long-term building block the mediocre 2011 season means his price is still reasonable.

Gio Gonzalez has a high ankle sprain, will be replaced on the NLCS roster

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It was understandable if you forgot about it given that it happened hours and hours before the end of the game, but Gio Gonzalez left in the second inning of Game 4 of the NLCS after coming down funny on his ankle while fielding a ball in play.

While Gonzalez attempted to stay in the game after that it was clear that he was not right, so the Brewers went to the bullpen. After the game, it was clear why he wasn’t right: Brewers manager Craig Counsell said that Gonzalez had a high ankle sprain and that it was likely he would be replaced on the roster with another pitcher.

This may actually benefit Milwaukee in the very short term given that Milwaukee used six relievers last night, so there will be a fresh arm on staff for Game 5 tonight. It does mean, however, that Gonzalez’ season is over, as a player replaced due to injury in one playoff series is required to sit out the next one. If the Brewers make it to the World Series, Gonzalez will not be available no matter how he is health, wise.

Counsell did not say which pitcher will replace Gonzalez on the roster. We’ll find out for sure later today. Among the possibilities are Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, Jordan Lyles and Matt Albers.