Neil Walker diagnosed with herniated disc in back

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Neil Walker missed three weeks with a back injury, returned in mid-September to play eight games, and was shut down again earlier this week.

That will be his last action of the season, as the Pirates announced that the second baseman has a herniated disc in his back and will be shut down for the final six games.

Walker got off to a slow start, caught fire around midseason, and will end up totaling just 29 plate appearances in Pittsburgh’s final 35 games, finishing with a .280 batting average and .768 OPS that’s a near match for his career .280 batting average and .761 OPS coming into the season.

At age 27 there doesn’t seem to be much room for Walker to grow into a star, but he’s cemented himself as an above-average regular for the Pirates and having him healthy for 2013 will be key to … well, trying to avoid a 21st straight losing season.

Rakuten Golden Eagles sign Jabari Blash

Jabari Blash
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Former Angels outfielder Jabari Blash has signed a one-year deal with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball, the team announced Friday. Per the Japan Times, the deal is said to be worth around $1.06 million. Blash was released from his contract with the Angels at the end of November.

The 29-year-old outfielder has had a rough go of it in the majors, where he failed to duplicate the promising results he delivered in the minors. While he consistently batted above .250 with 20-30 home runs per season at the Double- and Triple-A level, he petered out in back-to-back gigs with the Padres and Angels and slumped toward a .103/.200/.128 finish across 45 PA for Anaheim in 2018.

The hope, of course, is that the environment in NPB will help him get a better handle on his issues at the plate — in a best case scenario, resulting in a full-scale transformation that could make him more marketable to MLB teams in the future. To that end, Blash expects to be utilized as a cleanup batter in the Eagles’ lineup and will focus on assisting the club as they make a run toward the Japan Series.