Neil Walker back in starting lineup for first time since August 26

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The Pirates’ recent collapse has been pretty depressing to watch, but there is some good news to report this morning.

According to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Neil Walker is back in the Pirates’ starting lineup this afternoon against the Cubs after missing 16 straight starts due to lower back tightness. He struck out as a pinch-hitter yesterday in his first game action since August 26.

The Pirates went 4-12 with Walker out of the lineup and have lost seven in a row to fall to 72-71 on the year. They’ll open today’s action three games behind the Cardinals in the Wild Card race with 19 games to play. Postseason aspirations aside, avoiding a 20th straight losing season is suddenly looking dicey.

Walker, 27, is batting .280/.341/.434 with 14 home runs, 69 RBI and a .775 OPS in 122 games played this season.

Padres trade Brad Hand, Adam Cimber to the Indians for Francisco Mejia

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Ken Rosenthal reports that the San Diego Padres have traded closer Brad Hand and reliever Adam Cimber to the Cleveland Indians. In return the Padres are getting top catching prospect Francisco Mejia.

Hand, the Padres’ All-Star closer, has a 3.05 ERA and 65/15 K/BB ratio and 24 saves over over 44.1 innings of work this season. In addition to helping an Indians bullpen which has struggled mightily this season, Hand will provide an insurance policy for the next two seasons given that both Andrew Miller and Cody Allen are due to hit free agency this winter. Hand, meanwhile, is under contract for this year and next for a total of $13.5 million, with a $10 million club option for 2021.

Cimber is another fine reliever who, along with Hand, suddenly transforms the Indians’ bullpen. He’s a 27-year-old rookie, but he’s been a very useful one this year, posting a 3.17 ERA in 42 games, with a K/BB ratio of 51/10 in 48.1 innings. He’s pitched even better than that of late and has been particularly hard on righties. He’s under team control through 2023.

In Mejia, the Padres are getting the Indians’ top hitting prospect. A catcher — though not necessarily a great defensive one — Mejia has struggled in brief stints in the big leagues thus far but is a .291/.344/.438 hitter in six minor league seasons and, at times, has shown star potential. He turns 23 in October.

A nice piece for the Padres in the long term and an immediate upgrade to the Indians’ bullpen in the short term. In short: a baseball trade.