PITTSBURGH -- After the Pirates' season ended on Sunday, Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer walked off the field the same way they progressed through the Minors, the same way they played this past month, the same way they helped change the culture in Pittsburgh: together.Harrison and Mercer did not play
PITTSBURGH -- After the Pirates' season ended on Sunday, Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer walked off the field the same way they progressed through the Minors, the same way they played this past month, the same way they helped change the culture in Pittsburgh: together.
Harrison and Mercer did not play in Pittsburgh's 6-5 win over the Reds at Great American Ball Park, but they knew it might have been their last game with the Pirates. Mercer will be a free agent after the World Series, and the Bucs likely will buy out Harrison's $10.5 million club option for next season.
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Their final home game at PNC Park may have been more emotional, as manager Clint Hurdle pulled them from the game one after the other to let them soak in standing ovations. But Mercer said Sunday was still a surreal experience, knowing it could be their last day in a Pirates uniform.
Mercer, drafted by Pittsburgh in 2008, met Harrison in the Minors after the Cubs traded Harrison to the Pirates in '09. They became roommates not long after, with Harrison sleeping on Mercer's pull-out couch. They were dating women they would eventually marry, starting families with children -- Mercer's three boys, Harrison's two daughters -- who grew up together.
They won championships with Class A Advanced Lynchburg in 2009 and Double-A Altoona in '10. Harrison was called up in '11, Mercer in '12, then they played a part in Pittsburgh's postseason runs from 2013-15.
"When we won those championships in A ball and Double-A, I remember to this day, we looked at each other like, 'Why couldn't we do this in Pittsburgh?'" Mercer said. "We came up together, started slowly seeing it turn. We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for our teammates, but we just chipped in and helped out as much as we could.
"Now we're a part of some winning teams, some winning tradition, kind of changed the face of baseball in Pittsburgh for a while."
If this was the end of their tenure, Hurdle made sure they went out together. With the Pirates evaluating younger infielders like Adam Frazier, Kevin Newman and Kevin Kramer, the veterans made only one start in each series in September. The last six times they took the field this season, they lined up together -- Harrison at second base, Mercer at shortstop.
"I don't think you can make it up. Me and Jordy were both talking about it the other day," Harrison said. "I don't think it's a coincidence that he was my first friend here, slept on his couch. What better way for either one of us to kind of finish it together? In that regard, it's kind of cool."
There is a chance they could return as free agents. General manager Neal Huntington said the Pirates will "keep the door open to Jordy and Josh and see where their markets go." With Pittsburgh presumably in the market for a veteran infielder to mentor and share time with Newman and third baseman Colin Moran, Mercer seems to be a more likely fit.
"I can't rule out anything," Mercer said. "I could easily be back here. I could easily be somewhere else."
Around the horn
• The Pirates will wait until after the World Series to finalize and announce whether they will exercise or decline Harrison's option, which includes a $1 million buyout, or the $5.5 million club option for third baseman Jungho Kang.
• The Pirates' winning record bumped them down next year's MLB Draft board. They will pick 18th in the first round.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.