Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Jordy Mercer: His Time Has Come

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Jordy Mercer: His Time Has Come

Article excerpt

With the passing of the torch came the passing of information. * No official point in time marked the transfer of the majority of starts at shortstop from Clint Barmes to Jordy Mercer. Rather, Mercer's playing time gradually increased and manager Clint Hurdle acknowledged that Mercer, for the foreseeable future, would start more often than not.

* * * *

In the process, Mercer has learned from Barmes. A superb defender who relies on his first step, good routes to the ball and reading the ball off the bat, Barmes has much to offer Mercer.

"Mercer's a guy that's going to have to depend on angles," Hurdle said. "He's not going to have the range. He's got to be good with angles. He's getting better with angles.

"Barmes is an angle guy. Barmes has learned how to play shortstop by playing angles. He does it as well as anybody in the game."

The difference between their offensive performances at the plate had more to do with Mercer earning more playing time. Mercer had a .780 on-base plus slugging percentage and a .272 average entering the weekend. Barmes' slugging and on-base percentage were both less than .300 and he had a .201 average going into the weekend series against the Los Angeles Angels.

"That's one thing I said all along, when I started this year in spring training. I wanted to be as consistent as possible," Mercer said.

While both Barmes and Mercer are athletic, they need more than their foot speed to increase their range.

"Any time that you can pick his brain and figure out what he does to excel at his position, I'm always open to listening," Mercer said. "We've always talked about balls in the hole or balls up the middle that you can't quite get to, or is there a way to shorten it up or quicken it up a little bit? It's about taking the right angle. The first couple steps, you take the right angle, you can make the play."

Mercer has played short his whole life and is comfortable there. Continued exposure in the majors has allowed him to accumulate more data, helping him read swings and improve his first step.

"I think the more you play against the hitters over and over, the more you know what's going to happen. I think all of that factors in," Mercer said.

CUMPTON: NIBBLERS NEVER PROSPER

In 2011, in low Class A West Virginia, Brandon Cumpton found something that worked.

No major mechanical overhaul. No drastic revamping of his arsenal of pitches. Just a simple approach.

"I guess just attacking the strike zone," Cumpton said. "Stop trying to aim stuff and nitpick in the corners, because obviously you start falling behind and you end up getting forced to throw stuff down the middle and down. And guys take advantage of that."

Two years later Cumpton, who was at best the 10th option for the Pirates' rotation and who started this season in Class AA Altoona, made his major league debut for a team that entered the weekend 13 games over . …

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