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Pirates 2B Walker ready to but back issues to rest

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BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) - Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Neil Walker spent the first five months of last season helping his hometown team into contention. He spent most of the final six weeks watching from the bench thanks to a balky back that made routine tasks painful.

Walker insists he's healthy now thanks to a daily stretching routine that includes everything from pushups to hamstring stretches. The Pirates will need him to be close to 100 percent if they want to make another run at a playoff spot.

The 27-year-old hit .280 with a career-high 14 homers in 129 games last season. He avoided arbitration with the Pirates last month but has yet to discuss a long-term deal with the team. Walker says he's open to the idea but says it's not an issue he's focused on.

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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