Pirates notebook: Mercer earns more starts

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CINCINNATI -- Jordy Mercer's recent performance earned him his fifth start at shortstop in the past six games Monday night, the result of a shift toward Mercer and away from Clint Barmes.

"It's playing the guy that obviously is taking care of both sides of the ball right now very professionally," manager Clint Hurdle said.

Mercer entered the Monday night game against the Cincinnati Reds hitting .289 with a .312 on-base percentage. In nine games in Juneh, Mercer was hitting .323 with a .364 on-base percentage and four doubles.

"I've spoken to both of them, and Mercer's going to get some reps here because of the quality of the play, the way he's swinging the bat," Hurdle said. "I spoke to Clint as well, just so he doesn't have to wonder. I said, 'I'll give you a heads-up the next time you're in. When I get you back in, it won't just be for a game, we'll try to bundle you for a couple games, maybe some good matchups.' "

Hurdle stopped short of saying the job was Mercer's, but indications are Mercer will play more often than Barmes for now. Barmes entered the road trip opener with a .496 on-base plus slugging percentage and was hitting .148 this month.

Hurdle has also been impressed with Mercer's defense, stressing the need to make the routine plays.

"We don't need the ESPN highlight play from Jordy," Hurdle said. "If we get it, we get it. But if a ground ball's hit to short, it ends up out. That's what he's been doing.

"[Barmes] is actually helping Jordy get better every day."

Draftee ready to sign

High school catcher Reese McGuire, one of the Pirates' two first-round draft picks, is expected to take a physical and sign with the team today, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

McGuire flew to Pittsburgh Monday.

The assigned value of McGuire's slot, No. 14 overall, is $2,569,800, according to Baseball America. McGuire is committed to play college baseball for San Diego but indicated after the draft that he likely would sign.

"San Diego is a great route as well, but I think in this situation, with everything that's happened, I think I'm probably going to be leaning a little bit toward professionals," McGuire said on a conference call.

Morton works on sinker

Charlie Morton will take the mound today for his second major league start since his return from Tommy John ligament replacement surgery. He said he concentrated on locating his sinker during his side work between starts.

"If I'm going to be throwing it a lot, that means I should have control over it," Morton said. "I should be able to move it from side to side."

Morton allowed four runs, two earned, on seven hits in five innings during his first start.

"I'm confident enough that if I locate my sinker, I can do OK," Morton said. "If I can stay in the zone, somewhere down in the zone, I'll do OK. And then what'll make it even better is being able to throw off-speed stuff in different counts and being able to work both sides of the plate with my sinker."

Morton went 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA in four starts against the Reds in 2011. Surgery cut his 2012 season short.

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Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published June 18, 2013 4:00 AM


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