Infielder Jordy Mercer's time may be in 2014

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Jordy Mercer's time will come in Pittsburgh, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Monday.

It just won't be right now.

The Pirates optioned the hot-hitting infielder to Class AAA Indianapolis Monday to make room on the active roster for second baseman Neil Walker, healed from a deep cut to his right hand.

"He's headed to have his time, and it very well could be this season," Hurdle said of Mercer.

Scouting report

  • Game:

    Pirates vs. Milwaukee Brewers, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.

  • TV, Radio:

    Root Sports, KDKA-FM (93.7).

  • Probable starters:

    LHP Jeff Locke (3-1, 2.95) vs. RHP Kyle Lohse (1-4, 3.53 ERA).

  • Key matchup:

    Lohse vs. Brandon Inge, who is 9 for 27 (.333) with 2 home runs, 2 RBIs and 1 double in his career against Lohse.

  • Hidden stat:

    Locke has won his past three decisions since losing his first start of the season April 7 at Dodger Stadium.

Mercer is the only one of the three major league capable shortstops who has options remaining, meaning he was the only one the team could send to Indianapolis without fear of losing to another team through waivers. Though the Pirates eventually could part with one of those players -- Clint Barmes or John McDonald --the front office is not comfortable doing so until Chase d'Arnaud (torn thumb ligament) returns from the 60-day disabled list. That could happen as soon as June 1.

"In three weeks, we'll have more shortstop depth," Hurdle said. "We might be able to look for a different combination or a different way to attack things."

Barmes is making $5.5 million guaranteed this season, and his advance defensive metrics make him valuable to the team even though he was hitting .219 with a .265 on-base percentage entering Monday. McDonald, whom the Pirates acquired in a trade after d'Arnaud had thumb surgery in spring training, was hitting .067 entering Monday.

Mercer hit .258 with 3 home runs, 4 RBIs and 5 runs scored in nine games with the Pirates. He was hitting well in Indianapolis before being called up earlier this month and has played his way into the team's plans for 2014.

"I'm a fan," Hurdle said. "If the way things would play out and in 2014, comes to spring training, he could very well be the guy to get the shot to play at shortstop."

His defensive numbers at shortstop have improved in Indianapolis -- from a .961 fielding percentage in 2012 to a .983 fielding percentage this year.

Hurdle said the Pirates won't know for certain if Mercer has the defensive skill to be an everyday major league shortstop.

"I don't think we'll know that till we send him out there and give him the opportunity to do it," Hurdle said.

It might not be until 2014 that Mercer gets that chance.

Weather changes plans

A one-way ticket to New York went unused Saturday morning. And Walker has the weather to thank. Walker was hoping to play Thursday and Friday with Class AA Altoona before joining the Pirates against the Mets. But the Curve's game Friday was rained out, and the Pirates wanted Walker to get a chance to hit right- and left-handed pitching before being activated.

Walker injured his hand April 26 sliding into second base trying to break up a double play. St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma landed on Walker's right hand and cut it.

"The first time I slid this weekend on a double-play ball, I would be lying if I said to you it didn't cross my mind," Walker said. "... The chances of it happening again are extremely slim."

Pitchers' update

Pitcher James McDonald (shoulder inflammation) has not resumed throwing on a mound, though he will be eligible to come off the disabled list this week. Jeff Karstens (shoulder inflammation) threw 50 pitches Monday for Class A Bradenton. Charlie Morton (Tommy John surgery/shoulder discomfort) threw a 35-pitch bullpen session Monday and is scheduled to throw 65 pitches Thursday in a four-inning rehabilitation start for Altoona.

Coach on leave

Third-base coach Nick Leyva will miss an undetermined number of games for "personal reasons," the team announced. First-base coach Rick Sofield will coach third and major league coach Dave Jauss will man first until Leyva returns.

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Michael Sanserino:, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino. First Published May 14, 2013 4:00 AM


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