Mercer Is Left as Elder Statesman of Pirates

Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer, right, practices a drill as manager Clint Hurdle, left, looks on during baseball spring training, Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, in Bradenton, Fla. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) — Jordy Mercer shakes his head at the notion.

The 31-year-old shortstop is now the Pittsburgh Pirates’ elder statesman in terms of continuous service in the organization. Mercer was the Pirates’ third-round pick in the 2008 amateur draft from Oklahoma State and reached the major leagues four years later.

Mercer inherited the title from center fielder Andrew McCutchen in January when the Pirates traded the 2013 NL MVP and five-time All-Star to the San Francisco Giants. McCutchen was Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in 2005.

“I look around and I’m the last guy here, which is kind of weird feeling,” Mercer said at the Pirates’ spring training camp. “It’s a good feeling, too, to know that they still want me around after all these years.”

Mercer has been a steady if unspectacular presence in the Pirates’ lineup since taking over as the starter midway through the 2013 seasons. Pittsburgh made the first of three consecutive postseason appearances that year and Mercer has hit .256 with 49 home runs over six seasons while playing solid defense.

“He’s a man who is well-respected in that clubhouse,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “He shows up every day and you know what to expect.”

Not much is expected of the Pirates in 2018. They are coming off back-to-back losings seasons — giving them 22 sub-.500 finishes in the last 25 years — and dealt ace right-hander Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros in the offseason, too.

While veteran infielders Josh Harrison and David Freese expressed their displeasure with the trades when they reported to spring training, Mercer is taking a more philosophical approach.

“It stinks to lose Cutch and Gerrit because not only are they good players, but I’ll miss them as friends and teammates,” Mercer said. “You have to look at the positives, though. We have a lot of young guys who are hungry. They want to get better. They want to win. That’s fun.”

It wasn’t all that long ago that Mercer was a young guy and learning from veteran shortstop Clint Barmes in 2013.

Mercer is eligible for free agency at the end of the season and knows this could be his last year with the Pirates. There will be two former first-round picks and potential successors lined up behind him in the minor leagues with Kevin Newman slated to begin the season with Triple-A Indianapolis and Cole Tucker at Double-A Altoona.

“I mean I know what’s ahead of me and you can’t act like it’s not there, but I really don’t think about it,” Mercer said. “My focus right now is on having a good season and helping the team win. That’s where my focus should be.”

Mercer is also willing to help Newman and Tucker become better players, paying forward what Barmes did for him five years ago.

“It’s really fun to see those guys ask questions because I’ve been in their shoes,” Mercer said. “I asked questions and I’m glad I did. I learned so much from Clint that I have a hard time even putting it into words.

“Hopefully, I can pass along some of the things I’ve learned to these younger guys and maybe they can learn a few things that can help their careers.”

AROUND THE

GRAPEFRUIT AND CACTUS LEAGUES:

ORIOLES 2, RAYS 1

Tampa Bay starter Nathan Eovaldi pitched 1 1/3 hitless innings and struck out two in his first game since August 2016, when he had his second Tommy John surgery. Preston Palmiero, son of former Orioles star Rafael Palmiero, was a defensive replacement.

TIGERS 11, PHILLIES 6

Derek Norris went 3 for 3 with his second home run for Detroit. Rhys Hoskins hit his second homer for Philadelphia.

MARLINS 2

NATIONALS 2, 9 INN.

Miami starter Dan Straily struck out three in two scoreless innings. Gio Gonzalez gave up a hit over two innings and Tommy Milone fanned three over two fast innings for Washington. Bryce Harper doubled for the only extra-base hit.

PIRATES 3

BRAVES 3, 9 INNINGS

Mike Foltynewicz pitched two hitless innings for Atlanta and defensive whiz Johan Camargo homered. Jose Osuna had two hits for Pittsburgh.

CARDINALS 6

RED SOX (SS) 1

Shortstop Yairo Munoz got three hits for St. Louis. Brock Holt had two hits for Boston.

YANKEES 9

BLUE JAYS 8

Rookie third baseman Miguel Andujar hit his third spring homer, Danny Espinosa also connected and Austin Romine doubled twice for New York. Former Yankees catcher Russell Martin homered for Toronto and Marco Estrada worked a clean inning.

ASTROS 8, METS 2

Jake Marisnick doubled and drove in two runs and Brad Peacock had a solid outing in his two-inning start for Houston. Mets starter Steven Matz gave up five runs in the second inning. Tim Tebow struck out and went 0 for 2 as a Mets DH.

GIANTS 14

DIAMONDBACKS 12

Brandon Belt got three hits and Evan Longoria drew two walks for San Francisco. Starter Jeff Samardzija gave up two runs and four hits in 1 1/3 innings. Arizona’s Archie Bradley allowed four runs on four hits and three walks in 1 1/3 innings.

CUBS 6, WHITE SOX 5

Jon Lester made his spring debut and worked 1 2/3 innings, striking out three allowing a run on one hit. J.A. Happ hit the Cubs’ second leadoff home run of the spring. Hector Santiago threw three innings of clean relief, striking out four. Jose Abreu doubled and Matt Davidson hit his second home run.

BREWERS 6, REDS 3

Adam Duvall hit a two-run homer for Cincinnati. Eric Thames got his first hit of the spring for Milwaukee and Eric Sogard and Nick Franklin each drove in three runs.

INDIANS 16, A’S 8

Corey Kluber struck out three and gave up a run over two innings in his spring debut. Jason Kipnis homered twice and drove in four runs and newly signed Yonder Alonso doubled for Cleveland. Oakland reliever Yusmeiro Petit gave up a home run in his inning of relief.

ROYALS 14

MARINERS (SS) 9

Kansas City starter Wily Peralta gave up four earned runs and four hits in one inning. Whit Merrifield tripled and doubled. Andrew Moore, vying for a spot in the Seattle rotation, had a rough spring debut, giving up six runs on seven hits in 1 1/3 innings.

RANGERS 4

DODGERS 4, 9 INNINGS

Rougned Odor doubled, walked and stole his second base of the spring. Joey Gallo doubled in a run and scored for Texas. Kenta Maeda debuted with two solid innings for Los Angeles.

ANGELS 5, ROCKIES 2

Shohei Ohtani went 0 for 3 in his second game as the DH for Los Angeles. Matt Shoemaker worked 2 1/3 innings, scattering three hits and a run. Colorado starter Jon Gray allowed three hits and two runs over two innings.

PADRES 11

MARINERS (SS) 6

Eric Hosmer made his debut in a Padres uniform and had a hit in three at-bats. Clayton Richard gave up two runs on two hits in the start. Austin Hedges hit his second home run of the spring. Seattle’s James Paxton made his spring debut and allowed a hit and a walk over two innings. Jean Segura homered and drove in three runs with two hits.

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