08/15/12 7:12 PM ET
Burnett presides over players-only meeting
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
Pirates confident in Mercer's future at short
PITTSBURGH -- Jordy Mercer, the 25-year-old shortstop who has spent more time on the Pirates' bench than any player this season, is receiving the classic apprenticeship accorded to an anticipated future mainstay.Mercer was in the lineup for Wednesday night's clash with the Dodgers and their ace lefty, Clayton Kershaw, but it was only his eighth start on his 47th day on the Bucs' Major League roster. He has been used as a late-game defensive replacement 13 other times, but clearly his chief assignment has been to observe and to absorb. Also, to be observed. The Pirates obviously consider Mercer the heir apparent to the job currently being held by Clint Barmes, who does have a year remaining on the two-year contract he signed as a free agent last winter. Mercer has shown good instincts in the field, along with a strong arm and range. The lack of consistent at-bats has kept him from making an offensive impression, but he has occasionally flashed the talents that enabled him to hit .287 in 56 games with Triple-A Indianapolis around his two stints with the big league club. Mercer's play and work habits have left Pirates manager Clint Hurdle confident of the 2008 third-round Draft choice's future. "There's room for improvement," Hurdle said, "but we're seeing the signs -- defensive presence, enough arm strength, nice ball handling, a guy who competes in the batter's box -- to make everyone optimistic he can be a Major League shortstop down the road here in Pittsburgh."
"I see collectively a lot of guys in the blender right now."
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, trying to describe his players' mental state during the recent tailspin.
ROOT Sports, which has been getting unprecedented ratings for its telecast of Pirates games, added Thursday's series finale against the Dodgers to its broadcast schedule. The 4:05 p.m. ET game from PNC Park originally was not due to be aired. Outfielder Starling Marte was singled out by Baseball America as the International League's best batting prospect, best defensive outfielder and most exciting player in its recently released ratings. Marte has been the Bucs' regular left fielder since being called up on July 26. Going into Wednesday night's game, the Pirates' opposition had scored first in 12 of 13 August games. The only exception was Erik Bedard's 4-0 shutout over Arizona in the opener of the ongoing homestand. Catcher Michael McKenry, behind the plate for Wandy Rodriguez's start on Wednesday, was batting .378 in his last 15 games, and had hit safely in 10 consecutive starts.
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.