Mercer undergoing tests, but feels a lot better

Pirates shortstop was hit on the chest by a pitch while squaring to bunt

Mercer undergoing tests, but feels a lot better

PITTSBURGH -- Instead of being at the Pirates' shortstop position Monday night, Jordy Mercer was at an area hospital, undergoing the last of a series of tests to confirm he suffered nothing worse than a bruise when nailed on the upper chest by a fastball.

Jung Ho Kang was in the starting lineup at short against the Cubs, the Korean infielder's first start in front of the home crowd.

All the reports, however, were encouraging that Mercer avoided serious injury when he squared around to bunt in the sixth inning of Sunday's game and Brewers pitcher Matt Garza's pitch sailed in on him.

"He's in a better place than when I was talking to him on his knees on the field," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's sore, but feels a lot better. All the tests that were run show that we're treating it as a contusion. No fracture, nothing else popping up that's alarming."

Kang figures to remain at short Tuesday. Hurdle has voiced a preference for bundling playing time for his bench players, rather than just giving them random spot starts. Kang's previous two starts had been consecutive, April 11-12 in Milwaukee.

Some production from Kang's bat would alleviate questioning his presence on the Pirates' roster. General manager Neal Huntington defended that decision.

"Ten plate appearances, on top of 30 in Spring Training, is an awfully quick rush to judgment in our mind," Huntington said. "He has earned the opportunity to be on our club. There would be nothing gained by having him play in the Minor Leagues. The best way for him to get used to hitting Major League pitching is to hit Major League pitching, albeit in a limited role."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.