Pittsburgh Pirates | Strong finish earns Jordy Mercer full-time spot at short

jlembo@bradenton.comMarch 7, 2014 

BRADENTON -- During the baseball season, Jordy Mercer and his wife, Kasey, have a rule.

"We try not to talk about the season," he said, "during the season."

So when the 2013 campaign ended and Mercer had time to reflect on the role he played in helping revitalize the Pittsburgh Pirates, he and Kasey had plenty to talk about.

"We finally sat down on the couch this past offseason and we were like, 'Wow,'" Mercer said Thursday at McKechnie Field, where rain washed away the Pirates' scheduled Grapefruit League game against the Toronto Blue Jays.

"'This was crazy. A crazy ride.'"

When the season began, Mercer was in Triple-A Indianapolis. When it ended, he was in the visiting dugout at Busch Stadium, where the Pirates fell to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of the National League Division Series.

Mercer, 27, appeared in all five games and had eight at-bats in the series, singling twice to cap the most fulfilling year he has had in professional baseball.

Not only did Mercer appear in 103 games, wrestling his way into the starting lineup as the Pirates' everyday shortstop. But he hit .285 and slugged .435, infusing himself with the confidence needed to sustain baseball's daily grind.

He got acclimated to the National League and its pitching staffs. He played in some big games as the Pirates reached the playoffs last year for the first time since 1992.

Most importantly, he earned himself a job for 2014.

"Mercer has moved forward and will get every opportunity to play shortstop," manager Clint Hurdle told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review earlier this spring, adding that last year's starter, Clint Barmes, will be worked into a utility role.

It's been a long time coming for Mercer, a third-round pick of the Pirates in 2008.

That, however, was partially by his design.

Drafted out of high school in 2005 by the Los Angeles Dodgers during the 26th round, Mercer chose to attend Oklahoma State instead of signing a pro contract.

Had there been more money involved, Mercer acknowledged he would have given more thought to jumping from varsity ball to pro ball.

But he is happy it worked out the way it did. Not only did Mercer excel at Oklahoma State, earning three selections to the All-Big 12 team, he learned about life off the field, too.

"I felt like I wasn't ready at all," he said. "First of all, there's a lot more than just pro ball. There's living on your own. I didn't know how to do laundry, I didn't know how to do any of that stuff. ... I wasn't ready. There's no ifs, ands or buts about it. I needed more seasoning, I needed different competition, better competition."

This spring marks the first time Mercer has arrived with a job. Yet he was one of just three everyday position players to attend the first day of January's voluntary workouts at Pirate City and was one of the first to report to Bradenton this spring.

In the eyes of Mercer, who was penciled in to play shortstop Thursday while Barmes was starting at third, this spring is no different than any other -- even if last year was crazy.

"I'm going into spring training playing like I have to earn the job," he said. "I felt like the past couple of years has helped me out, being in a situation like that. And I'm going to stay in that situation. I feel like if you get complacent, your work gets to not be there as much. I'm trying to make the team right now; I'm still in the battle of making the team, making the club. And I want to have a great camp."

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