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Mercer improving, expects to rejoin lineup soon

Shortstop jammed pinky finger diving back to first base Monday vs. Twins
MLB.com @adamdberry

PITTSBURGH -- Jordy Mercer was not in the starting lineup for the Pirates' series finale against the Twins on Wednesday night, but he believes he avoided any sort of serious injury in Monday's home opener.

Mercer exited Pittsburgh's 5-4 win over Minnesota on Monday after jamming his right pinky finger while diving back to first base in the fourth inning. The swelling subsided between Tuesday morning and Wednesday afternoon, and Mercer was able to field ground balls and swing in the batting cage at PNC Park prior to Wednesday's game.

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PITTSBURGH -- Jordy Mercer was not in the starting lineup for the Pirates' series finale against the Twins on Wednesday night, but he believes he avoided any sort of serious injury in Monday's home opener.

Mercer exited Pittsburgh's 5-4 win over Minnesota on Monday after jamming his right pinky finger while diving back to first base in the fourth inning. The swelling subsided between Tuesday morning and Wednesday afternoon, and Mercer was able to field ground balls and swing in the batting cage at PNC Park prior to Wednesday's game.

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Sean Rodriguez started at shortstop, batting eighth against former Rays teammate Jake Odorizzi, but Mercer declared himself available off the bench and said he expects to be fully ready to play on Thursday.

"Lots of improvement. Still a little bit black and blue, but it's way better than it was yesterday," Mercer said. "I woke up yesterday, and I was like, 'Ahh!' But way better, a lot better."

Throwing and fielding won't be an issue, Mercer said. His biggest concern was his ability to grip a bat, which he was able to do thanks to some supportive padding inserted into his batting glove. When he returns to the lineup, he'll probably have to wear some protective gear on his right hand -- like the "oven mitt" previously worn by Starling Marte and Josh Harrison, among others -- while running the bases.

"Figure out how to dive back, right? I still don't know how I did it," Mercer said, smiling. "I watched the replay. I guess my face told the whole story."

Trainer's room
• Right-handed reliever A.J. Schugel (right shoulder) has thrown two bullpen sessions in Florida, director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said. The next step for Schugel is throwing live batting practice. After that would come simulated games followed by a return to game action. Schugel has not pitched in a game since Feb. 25, his first Spring Training outing.

• Rule 5 Draft pick Nick Burdi, on the 60-day disabled list while recovering from Tommy John surgery, threw off the slope of the mound in Florida, Tomcyzk said. Minor League right-hander Bo Schultz, a little more than a year removed from Tommy John surgery, was assigned to Class A Advanced Bradenton's active roster. Tomczyk had no further updates on right-hander Joe Musgrove, who was placed on the disabled list Monday due to a muscle strain in his right shoulder.

Around the horn
• Manager Clint Hurdle said he is taking left-hander Steven Brault's stint in the Pirates' rotation "one start at a time." Brault is moving out of the bullpen to start Thursday against the Reds at PNC Park.

After that, the Pirates don't technically need a fifth starter until April 15 in Miami due to Tuesday's off-day in Chicago. However, Wednesday's game was the start of a stretch in which the Bucs will play 18 games in 19 days.

• AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh will not broadcast the Pirates' games against the Reds on Thursday and Friday. However, MLB Network will air both contests in the Pittsburgh television market.

• The Pirates on Wednesday announced the introduction of "Dollar Dog Nights" at home. There will be eight this season, with the first one scheduled for Friday. The regular $1 hot dogs will be available at any Aramark North Shore concession stand at PNC Park during the promotion.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Jordy Mercer