Mercer's emergence has Barmes in background

Mercer's emergence has Barmes in background

Mercer's emergence has Barmes in background

ANAHEIM -- The Jordy Mercer move began subtly. After occasional starts against certain left-handed pitchers, the Pirates' rookie shortstop found himself in the lineup on June 13 against tough San Francisco righty Matt Cain.

"He's handled left-handers very well, and I want to pick some spots for Jordy against right-handers as well," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle at the time, adding of incumbent Clint Barmes, "We haven't quit on anybody. There will be appropriate times for everybody to stay engaged."

However, Mercer has become a fixture, making his eighth consecutive start Saturday night. Barmes has had five at-bats and 13 innings at short since June 11.

"All I can do is stay ready. If they found someone better, I get that," Barmes said. "Everybody wants to play. I try not to read anything into what's happening."

Contemplating the change, Hurdle said he had sit-downs with both Barmes and Mercer, explaining the situation.

"We try to treat everyone the way we would like to be treated," Hurdle said Saturday. "We still have a need for Barmes. We also need him to grow Mercer."

The veteran has spent considerable time assisting the younger player, mentoring him on the defensive subtleties of the position. Their lockers are adjacent in Angel Stadium's visitors clubhouse.

Barmes' defense has always been exceptional, but he has struggled offensively in a season and a half with the Bucs. He had to finish hot last year to hit .229 and since a late-May splurge (.324 in a dozen games) has hit .128 in 13 games, dropping his overall average to .201. Mercer entered Saturday night's game batting .290 in 35 games, including .412 win men on base, the third-best mark among Major Leaguers with a minimum of 30 at-bats.

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.