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Mercer transitioning to everyday role

MLB.com

MILWAUKEE -- As a part-time shortstop last season, Jordy Mercer put up some impressive offense -- numbers compelling enough for the Pirates to give him the everyday job, an acknowledged tradeoff for the peerless defense Clint Barmes had provided.

A week-and-a-half into this season, the blueprint hasn't been followed. Mercer is off to a slow start with the bat, entering Saturday night's game batting .138 (4-for-29), without an extra base hit.

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MILWAUKEE -- As a part-time shortstop last season, Jordy Mercer put up some impressive offense -- numbers compelling enough for the Pirates to give him the everyday job, an acknowledged tradeoff for the peerless defense Clint Barmes had provided.

A week-and-a-half into this season, the blueprint hasn't been followed. Mercer is off to a slow start with the bat, entering Saturday night's game batting .138 (4-for-29), without an extra base hit.

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Manager Clint Hurdle attributed Mercer's early difficulties to the change in roles. He's seen it before: When success is a luxury, it is a lot easier to achieve than when it is expected.

"Last season, when he was filling in and spotting up, his confidence grew throughout the season," Hurdle said. "Now you're in a different situation ... you're the top-tier shortstop, the guy getting the reps.

"That has challenged a lot of young players. He's not the first one, and he is growing through the experience. He has not taken his bat on the field, and has shown professional awareness of what he needs to do, separating the bat and the glove."

In his quest to get some offensive momentum, Mercer has also missed the encounters with left-handed pitchers, against whom he had success last season. As the season progressed, he became a quasi-regular against southpaws, whom he hit at a .410 rate (compared to .247 versus righties). So far this season, Mercer had had precisely one at-bat against a left-hander.

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.

Pittsburgh Pirates