Mercer and Harrison Will Start Rehab Soon; Pirates Rotation Shuffled

Clint Hurdle told the media before tonight’s game that Josh Harrison (thumb) and Jordy Mercer (leg) will both be sent to Triple-A Indianapolis next week to begin their rehab assignments. The plan is for Harrison to begin his assignment on Tuesday, while Mercer will start his assignment three days later. Hurdle said that the rehab stints will not be of the short variety, as both will need to build up innings and repetitions.

“It won’t be one day and it won’t be two days,” Hurdle said. “There is going to be a commitment of time I think and reps. We are never comfortable throwing them out nine innings the first time they are out [on the field].”

Hurdle said that it is likely that Harrison and Mercer will begin by playing an abbreviated seven-inning game, followed by completing a full nine-inning affair. The final step will be playing back-to-back nine-inning games. This will allow each of the players to build up around 20 to 25 at bats.

This is a great sign considering both players were expected to be out until late-August to early-September. Harrison could be coming back just in time to replace Aramis Ramirez at third base if he continues to struggle at the plate. He’s 4-for-34 thus far in his return to the Pirates.

** Hurdle also announced that the Pirates have moved Francisco Liriano’s next start up to Saturday night against the Dodgers. The Pirates have been looking for an opportunity to split up the left-handed trio of Liriano, J.A. Happ and Jeff Locke, and Liriano’s rain-shortened start Monday night has provided them the chance to do so.

The Pirates will throw Gerrit Cole Friday night, Liriano Saturday night and Charlie Morton Sunday night in their three-game series against the Dodgers. With an off-day Monday, this could give the Pirates an opportunity to skip Happ’s spot in the rotation as they play a pivotal three-game series against the Cardinals beginning Tuesday night. Hurdle says he has not made a decision whether or not that will take place.

“I want to give that some time – we’ve got some thoughts going in,” Hurdle explained. “There’s some people I have to talk to before I go any further.”