PITTSBURGH -- With Jordy Mercer injured, the Pirates called up their potential shortstop of the future on Thursday.
The Pirates selected the contract of infielder Kevin Newman, their first-round Draft pick in 2015, amid a series of roster moves before Thursday's series opener against the Cubs at PNC Park. Newman made his Major League debut in the ninth inning of Pittsburgh's 1-0 loss, entering the game as a defensive replacement at shortstop.
"It's a dream come true. This is what every baseball player strives for and wants to get to," Newman said. "To be here and be in this clubhouse with these guys, it's really exciting. I look forward to it."
Mercer was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a left calf strain, which he sustained Tuesday night in Minnesota. Putting Mercer on the DL allowed the Bucs to quickly recall outfielder Jordan Luplow, who was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis on Sunday.
With catchers Francisco Cervelli and Elias Diaz in good health, the Pirates also optioned catcher Jacob Stallings to Triple-A. Right-hander Casey Sadler was designated for assignment to make room for Newman on Pittsburgh's 40-man roster.
Newman learned of his promotion from Triple-A manager Brian Esposito after Indianapolis' doubleheader on Wednesday night. His first call was to his wife, Shayne, who caught a red-eye flight from California and arrived at PNC Park on Thursday along with Newman's parents, John and Tammy, and sister Fallon.
"Got a pretty good reaction out of her," Newman said, smiling. "She was really happy, screaming on the phone. It was great."
Newman was not in Pittsburgh's starting lineup on Thursday -- veteran Adeiny Hechavarria got the nod behind Ivan Nova -- but the 25-year-old will get a chance to play while Mercer is sidelined. Newman, the Bucs' No. 6 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, was hitting .302/.350/.407 with 30 doubles, four homers, 35 RBIs and 28 steals in 109 games this season for Indianapolis.
Newman heated up just before his promotion, batting .366 in his final 10 games for Indianapolis. That stretch included a 5-for-5 performance on Aug. 7 during which Newman and Stallings both hit for the cycle. Newman is regarded as a high-average hitter who makes consistent contact, and his steady middle-infield defense has improved this season.
"I think he's the most dependable shortstop that we could call up," manager Clint Hurdle said. "From Opening Day until now, he's improved every facet of his game. He hasn't blinked when other people have been called up."
But Newman made a fairly quick climb through the Pirates' system. A year and a half after being drafted 19th overall, he was invited to big league Spring Training camp. Last July, he made the leap to Triple-A. A little more than three years after his professional debut, Newman found his No. 27 jersey in the Pirates' clubhouse.
"It happened in its own time. It happened when it needed to happen," Newman said. "The Pirates felt that I was ready. I've worked hard, and thankfully they selected me and brought me up here."
Mercer will be a free agent at the end of the season, and Newman is in line to take over as the everyday shortstop as soon as next year. Assuming Newman remains in Pittsburgh the rest of the year, he can continue to learn from Mercer as Mercer once learned from Clint Barmes.
"This is another one of our own guys. Jordy was one of our guys. So there's a kindred spirit there, I believe, that's special as well," Hurdle said. "They've already spent some time together, and there'll be more dialogue with Jordy while he's here that will help. I know it will help."