Mercer remains as elder stateman
BRADENTON, Fla. — 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.”