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Mercer embracing stopgap role with Tigers

December 18, 2018

Jordy Mercer grew up in the same area of Oklahoma as Michael Fulmer, about seven years apart in age. They go to the same church, Mercer said, but he doesn't know Fulmer well.Mercer does, however, have a potential icebreaker with his new Tigers teammate after signing a one-year, $5.25 million

Jordy Mercer grew up in the same area of Oklahoma as Michael Fulmer, about seven years apart in age. They go to the same church, Mercer said, but he doesn't know Fulmer well.
Mercer does, however, have a potential icebreaker with his new Tigers teammate after signing a one-year, $5.25 million contract last week.
"Actually, I do need a plumber," Mercer said on Tuesday, referring to Fulmer's old offseason job, "so I might need to call him to come check my faucet. That might be a good idea, to give him a ring and create that relationship really early."
Considering Fulmer once gave consultation to ex-teammate Justin Verlander on what a plumbing project should cost, that shouldn't be an issue.
Mercer isn't worried about making friends in a new clubhouse after spending the first seven seasons of his career in Pittsburgh. What concerned him more was that the Tigers and other teams knew what to expect from him.

The 32-year-old's record is pretty consistent, rarely wavering from the .256 batting average and .699 OPS he owns for his career. His defensive metrics have wavered, like a lot of Major League shortstops, but his focus on fielding has not.
"Numbers are whatever," Mercer said. "I think I have three, maybe even four identical seasons, it seems like, almost the exact same numbers. I try to play as many games as I can. I try to be consistent -- no highs, no lows, just try to pick that middle path and be as consistent as possible knowing that when the skipper runs me out there every night, he knows what he's getting. You know what type of numbers he's going to put up and you know he's going to bring some stability to the middle infield, which is important for any team."
It was important for the Tigers, which is why general manager Al Avila reached out early to Mercer's agent, Scott Boras. And while Boras has a reputation for playing out the market with some of his free agents, he had a feeling an opportunity could arrive early.
That was welcome for Mercer. In his first go-around as a free agent, he wasn't up for a waiting game.
"He felt like there was going to be something out there early, and I felt like I wanted to sign early," Mercer said. "It was a perfect fit for that situation. We had conversations with Detroit early. There were a lot of moving parts this offseason for me, and it kind of all worked out. I couldn't be more blessed, more honored to be in the situation I'm in and for things to work out the way they did. …
"They wanted to get something done. I wanted to get something done. There's not very many starting shortstops out there role-wise, and it just seemed like a perfect fit because Detroit was in that transition period. They've got a bunch of young guys coming up and they need a guy to step in right away and fill that void, and that was something I was looking for."

Mercer has been through the youth movement on both ends. He came up with the Pirates in 2012-13, succeeding Clint Barmes and taking over the shortstop job through Pittsburgh's run of contention that included postseason berths from '13-15. When the Pirates called up former first-round pick Kevin Newman last August to move into the shortstop role, Mercer tried to pay forward the lessons Barmes taught him.
As a veteran shortstop on a one-year contract, Mercer knows he faces a similar situation in Detroit, where the Tigers signed him to give prospectsWilli Castro and Sergio Alcantara another year to develop. Mercer embraces the role.
"If they have questions, I'm always here," Mercer said. "I think having the transition I made last year with Pittsburgh the last month of the season when Kevin Newman started playing, I kind of took the back end of that. I'm excited for it. I know there's a bunch of young kids on the roster, a bunch of young kids coming up through the system, and I'm excited to get going and answer as many questions as I can and show these young kids to show up every day and play."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.