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Veteran Mercer intent on paying it forward

Pirates' shortstop happy to be resource for up-and-coming talent
MLB.com @adamdberry

BRADENTON, Fla. -- It doesn't seem like that long ago to Jordy Mercer that he was in the same place Cole Tucker, Kevin Newman or Kevin Kramer now find themselves. He was learning his way around Pirates camp, asking questions from established veterans and taking in as much information as possible.

But look at Mercer now, 31 years old and shaking his head as he leans over the back of his chair in the Pirates' LECOM Park clubhouse, where he sits alongside other veterans. The idea seems crazy to him. Starling Marte signed with Pittsburgh in 2007, but no other player in Pirates camp has been in this organization longer than Mercer, who was drafted in the third round by Pittsburgh in '08.

BRADENTON, Fla. -- It doesn't seem like that long ago to Jordy Mercer that he was in the same place Cole Tucker, Kevin Newman or Kevin Kramer now find themselves. He was learning his way around Pirates camp, asking questions from established veterans and taking in as much information as possible.

But look at Mercer now, 31 years old and shaking his head as he leans over the back of his chair in the Pirates' LECOM Park clubhouse, where he sits alongside other veterans. The idea seems crazy to him. Starling Marte signed with Pittsburgh in 2007, but no other player in Pirates camp has been in this organization longer than Mercer, who was drafted in the third round by Pittsburgh in '08.

"I look at it as a blessing. It's been a blessing to be here this long, to be in an organization this long," Mercer said. "Everybody well knows now that people come and go pretty quickly -- not just here, anywhere. Nobody stays with one team anymore."

Andrew McCutchen is proof of that. Drafted in 2005 and debuting in '09, McCutchen had been the longest-tenured Pirate. That title technically now belongs to Josh Harrison, who joined the Pirates system via trade in '09 and debuted in '11. Not far behind is Mercer, who's stayed put as many of his friends and teammates moved on over the past few years. He was mentored by the previous generation, most notably predecessor Clint Barmes, and now he's trying to pay it forward with the next class of young shortstops.

Video: MLB Pipeline on Pirates' farm system after trades

"I've always been a guy that leads by example. I'm always going to be a guy that shows up and plays," he said. "I'm never really a vocal guy. I'll pull some guys aside and say some stuff, but I'll never come out and say it. I just lead by example, leave it on the field and try to keep my head down."

The Pirates' Minor League system runs deep at the shortstop position Mercer now occupies. He's seeing it first-hand in defensive drills this spring as he works alongside top prospects Tucker (No. 5 in the organization according to MLB Pipeline), Newman (No. 7) and Kramer (No. 9).

Video: Top Prospects: Cole Tucker, SS, Pirates

"This situation we're in here, we're men deep at the shortstop position, with quality," manager Clint Hurdle said.

Rather than worry about one of them eventually taking his job, Mercer is trying to be a resource for the Pirates' next wave of talent.

"It's really fun for me. I've been in their shoes before," he said. "I've known what they're going through. I know they're learning on the fly, learning as much as they can while they're here trying to soak up everything. That's kind of the way I was.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"I always told them that no question's a bad question. That's how I've always approached it. If you have a question, come up to me and ask any time."

Mercer has had to answer a few questions this spring about his past, the Pirates' present and, more often than anything else, his future. With free agency looming at the end of the season, what comes next?

"Honestly, I'm not really even thinking about it," Mercer said. "I'm just going to put my head down and keep playing, keep doing what I do and try to help this team win as many games as we can. That's the No. 1 goal in here. Whatever happens, happens after that."

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