PITTSBURGH -- Many future Major League regulars get on-the-job training. Jordy Mercer's on-the-bench training apparently hasn't yet run its course.The Pirates are pleased enough with the exposure their shortstop prospect is getting to not yet be considering his return to the Minors, even though the youngster has had one plate appearance since June 1. "When we have our young players in a utility role, there comes a point in time when they need to get out and just play," Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington said of Mercer, who arrived from Indianapolis on May 29 as a hot hitter [.303 with the Indians] and has made only two starts since. "We need to keep those young guys sharp and growing and developing. We haven't reached that point with Jordy yet." Manager Clint Hurdle considered giving Mercer his third start in Sunday's finale of the series in Cleveland, but Hurdle decided to stick with regular Clint Barmes. Despite the apparent inactivity, the club is pleased with how Mercer has responded to merely being in a big league environment. He has a hit and two walks in 11 plate appearances, with three strikeouts, but Huntington said Mercer has impressed behind the scenes. "He's worked so hard, pregame and postgame," Huntington said. "He's kept himself fresh. But you can't replace those in-game at-bats." When and if the Pirates do decide to return Mercer to Indianapolis for regular play, it isn't certain that his roster spot would go to another middle infielder, such as Yamaico Navarro. Jeff Clement, who is hitting with power for the Indians -- with half of his 56 hits for extra bases -- would get consideration.
Alvarez again pairs two-homer outbursts
PITTSBURGH -- In the euphoric minutes following his second two-homer game in as many days, Pedro Alvarez was asked about the curiosity of having coupled all four of his career multihomer games.His weekend destruction of the Indians had mirrored what he had done to the Brewers from July 20-21, 2010. Is it a recurring, sudden feeling of supremacy, someone wondered, or just a coincidence? "Coincidence," Alvarez replied in typical straightforward, taciturn style. Well, coincidentally, he has equaled a feat of arguably the most fabled slugger in Pirates history: Ralph Kiner, the only other Pittsburgh player ever to twice connect for two homers in consecutive games. Kiner still trumps Alvarez on three counts: He paired multihomer games three times and twice in one season (1947), when both sets included a three-homer game. But give Alvarez time. After all, he's only 25 years old. The rest of the Pirates party was virtually salivating at the sight of Alvarez's latest awakening. Baseball is both the proverbial game of failure and of extremes, and few illustrate the latter better than Alvarez. Entering Monday's schedule, a total of 56 Major Leaguers had 34-plus RBIs. Only one man, the Rays' Luke Scott (39), has managed it on fewer than Alvarez's 40 hits.
Minor Leaguer Wilson honored for strong week
PITTSBURGH -- Left-hander Justin Wilson has joined some select Pirates Minor League company as a two-time winner of the International League Pitcher of the Week Award.Wilson earned the most recent citation after giving up only one run and five hits in two starts covering 13 innings in the week through Sunday. His earlier honor was for the week of April 23-29, recognizing his seven inning start toward Indianapolis' no-hitter against Durham. Wilson, on whom the Bucs are keeping a close eye for a possible midseason addition to their staff, is the third Indianapolis pitcher to win the weekly award twice in one season. John Van Benschoten (2007) and Ian Snell (2005) had previously doubled up as pitchers of the week in the Triple-A loop. "Justin keeps showing you flashes of his stuff," said Pirates general manager Neal Huntington. "If he gains command of his fastball, he could be a quality Major League starter. If not, he could still become a left-handed reliever who throws hard."
The Pirates played a big part in Major League Baseball's strong weekend attendance showing, culminating with the average crowd of 38,779 for the 15 Father's Day games. Boosted by a tremendous influx of fans from Pittsburgh, the three-game Interleague series in Cleveland attracted 89,716 and included the Indians' first two crowds of more than 30,000 people since Opening Day. Outfielder Josh Bell, a second-round pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, has picked up the pace of baseball activities on the comeback road from his late-May knee injury, although he isn't yet running the bases. Gustavo Nunez, the forgotten shortstop who occupies a spot on the 40-man roster but has been on the 60-day DL since before Spring Training with a fractured right ankle, had a significant but undisclosed setback in early May: Due to irritation, the screws had to be removed from the joint, meaning the bone hence had to heal on its own. Nunez, acquired in the Rule 5 Draft out of the Detroit organization, has begun elementary baseball workouts that still do not include running drills.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.