Mercer Joins the Pirates, But Barmes Still the Shortstop
PITTSBURGH, Pa. — Infielder Jordy Mercer arrived to the clubhouse on Tuesday afternoon at PNC Park just an hour before the club was set to take batting practice. Surrounded by media, the 25-year-old was all smiles as he tried to put into words what getting called up to the Majors felt like.
“It’s a dream come true, it really is,” Mercer said. “Words can’t describe it. It’s something you dream about as a little kid, and it’s actually coming true. That’s pretty special…This is what you dream of. To get into the game. To make the most of it. I’m excited for it.”
Mercer said he found out from his Triple-A manager Dean Treanor, who called him into his office to deliver the news.
“Dean just called me in his office and said, ‘The time is now. You’re ready to go.’ That’s basically it,” Mercer said, who immediately called his parents. Mercer’s wife was already with him for the special moment.
And Mercer has earned a promotion to the Majors — especially after swinging a hot bat for the past few weeks. The infielder hit for a .358/.408/.453 line in 95 at-bats in the month of May. Before getting recalled, Mercer ranked eighth in the International League with a .303 average over 47 games with Triple-A.
“Just trying to stay within myself,” Mercer said. “Not trying to do too much. I really worked hard with [Jeff] Branson, our hitting coach down there in Indy. Just stay with the same middle approach and don’t try and do too much and everything will workout itself.”
Not only does Mercer provide a bat — the third round pick by Pittsburgh in 2008 led the farm system last year with 19 home runs — but he also provides versatility with a good defensive glove. He made 28 appearances at shortstop and 10 each at second base and third base while in Indy this season.
“Wherever they want to use me, I’m ready for it,” he said. “Just continue to prepare, continue to get at-bats, continue to take ground balls, do different things at different positions. Whenever the team needs me, I’ll be ready for that moment.”
“He’s played all three positions at Indianapolis: shortstop, second base, and third base,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said. “And he’s had a very successful camp again to date. Offensive gains have picked up very well in the last month. We liked some of the things we saw in spring training. I do think it was a young man still trying to figure some things out. The game got a little quick for him in spring training. I think he really learned some valuable lessons being with us. Now the time spent down there was invested well.”
“It will free up [Josh] Harrison. You’ve got a good middle infielder with a good glove. If he’s not starting, on the bench to pick up defensively. It frees the other guys up to do some multiple things. Whether you want to hit for someone late. He’s earned the opportunity.”
How Mercer performs could impact the Pirates infield situation. Clint Barmes signed a two-year deal with the club to be the Pirates everyday shortstop, but has struggled to get his bat going this season. Barmes is 0-for his last 9 at-bats, and he’s hit just .189 in May and .149 in April. Josh Harrison, too, can play shortstop, and could see more reps in the infield.
“Nothings changed,” Hurdle said. “Barmes is our shortstop. We’ll find opportunities to get Josh involved. We’ll find opportunities to get Jordy involved as well. As a matter of fact, I talked to Clint today. Mercer was not brought up to replace Barmes. I just think it makes us a better ball club now. Our strengths, I think are in a better place.”
Mercer will have to wait to see his name in the starting lineup card. Harrison will get the start on Tuesday at short, but Hurdle mentioned that he plans on giving Barmes several days off to work on some things. Mercer could see his name hanging in the clubhouse on the card for the first time very soon.
“I’m going to get him down to work on something specifically hitting,” Hurdle said on Barmes. It might be a couple day thing.”
In order to make room for Mercer, the club optioned infielder Yamaico Navarro to Triple-A Indianapolis. The 24-year-old was used as a utility player and had a hard time adjusting to the role. Navarro hit just .178 and made 10 starts with Pittsburgh. The infielder will benefit from getting everyday playing time in the minors.
“The kid needs to play,” Hurdle said. “We like him. We liked him a lot in spring training. We like the bat, the versatility. We weren’t getting him better in the role he was in right now, so we needed to get him down, get him play.”
“As you look at him long-term, I think he still profiles well at third, and he can profile at second. We’re going to look to get him in those two positions [in Triple-A]. You find a middle infielder with a bat that plays, there’s a lot of value in that. The range is there. The arm strength is there. Obviously we’ve got one of those already. But to try and at least get him two staples while he’s down there…His ability to go to left or two right, it’s intriguing.”