Pirates notebook: Mercer prepared to lead off vs. lefties
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jordy Mercer said no one has told him yet that he’ll be in the leadoff spot against left-handers.
“But I’ve kind of got a feeling that’s what they have in mind,” Mercer said.
As spring training winds down, manager Clint Hurdle is taking a regular-season approach toward the lineup. Hurdle confirmed that includes constructing specific lineups for lefty and righty pitchers.
On Friday, Mercer was in the top spot against Boston Red Sox southpaw David Price. If that’s the start of a trend, Mercer figures it makes sense.
“I hit lefties really well, and you get more opportunities against lefties leading off,” said Mercer, who owns a career .324 average and an .864 on-base plus slugging mark against left-handers. “I haven’t been approached about it, but I don’t really care either way. I’m just going to go out and do my thing.”
Although he’s batted leadoff just twice so far in his career, Mercer isn’t fazed by being atop the order.
“It’s just (about) knowing the game,” Mercer said. “The first thing that comes to mind about being a leadoff guy is just getting on base somehow. I’m not going to change anything. The first at-bat is obviously different because you’re leading off the game, but after that all the at-bats are kind of the same.”
Pirates leadoff hitters ranked ninth in the National League with 25 stolen bases last year. Mercer, who’s swiped 10 bags in his career, isn’t fretting about padding that total.
“The good thing about the guys hitting behind me is I don’t have to steal,” Mercer said. “They can hit it out or hit it into the gap, and I’ll just keep running.”
Andrew McCutchen was scratched from the lineup in what the team said was a precautionary move due to tightness in his left quadriceps. Instead of making the trip to Fort Myers, McCutchen worked out at McKechnie Field.
Jason Rogers, who sat out Thursday’s game due to an allergy attack, started at first base Friday.
Michael Morse said his upper right leg, which he tweaked while running the bases Thursday, felt better after a night’s rest. He also worked out at McKechnie Field.
Ryan Vogelsong went 4 1⁄3 innings against the Red Sox and gave up six runs on nine hits and two walks. He did not get a strikeout.
“He didn’t have his best stuff,” Hurdle said. “The ball was elevated more than it was down. In two-strike at-bats, he wasn’t able to put guys away. He just wasn’t sharp.”
Vogelsong is vying for one of two open spots in the rotation. He threw well in two previous outings, including one at Pirate City.
“I threw the ball great in a minor league game and probably let my guard down too much tonight instead of staying on top of things,” Vogelsong said. “I’m not going to let one night in Fort Myers deter me from how good I’ve been throwing the ball and the hard work I’ve accomplished so far.”
Figueroa in mix
As he sorts out his bench, Hurdle must decide whether to carry a true fourth outfielder — that is, Matt Joyce — or if the team can get by with utility players.
“Versatility is always a plus,” Hurdle said. “That’s why we’ve taken every bench player and run them out to multiple positions this spring, to see what else they can provide for us.”
That explains Hurdle’s plan to give Cole Figueroa more playing time in the outfield over the next few days.
“There was a time earlier this spring when I played more outfield than infield,” Figueroa said. “It went well. I haven’t been out there for a while now, but I should still feel pretty comfortable.”
Figueroa has appeared in 17 games, the second-highest total on the team behind Rogers (19 games). Hurdle likes what he’s seen from Figueroa.
“He’s pretty much as advertised,” Hurdle said. “He’s a backyard baseball player. Pays attention. Consistent defender. Works at-bats. Moves the ball around. He’s going to find a way to beat you.”
Around the horn
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert will visit Pirates camp Monday morning and speak with the team. … Lefty reliever Cory Luebke can opt out of his deal with the Pirates on Tuesday if he’s not added to the active roster. Luebke is scheduled to pitch Saturday afternoon against the Minnesota Twins.