Pirates notebook: Iron man Mercer out of starting lineup for first time this season
CHICAGO — Cal Ripken Jr. didn't call to offer condolences, but Jordy Mercer wasn't offended.
Mercer was not in the starting lineup Saturday for the first time this season. He hates to take a day off, but playing in 162 games this season — much less matching the 2,632 straight starts made by Ripken — is a tough task.
“You guys knew that wasn't going to happen,” Mercer said with a grin. “It's all right. It's fine. That's a lot of games that (Ripken) played.”
Last season, Mercer appeared in 149 games, which was second on the team behind Andrew McCutchen (153 games). In 2014, Mercer led the team with 149 games played.
In his career, Mercer has hit 1 for 14 (.071) against Chicago Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta.
“This is a good day to take a breather,” manager Clint Hurdle said.
Overall, Mercer is batting .189 with one extra-base hit and three RBIs. He's struck out eight times in 37 at-bats. The down time gave Mercer a chance to recharge.
“Your mind's not racing through a bunch of different things,” Mercer said before the game. “I can isolate (my swing), go into the cage and work on some things. I'm not even going to hit BP outside.”
Adam Frazier, whom Hurdle called “our next-best option,” made his first start this season at shortstop. Frazier already has started at four other spots: left field, second base, third base and designated hitter.
Mercer didn't get the entire day off, though. After the Pirates rallied with a five-run seventh inning, he entered the game in the eighth as a defensive replacement.
“A whole day off? You knew that wasn't going to happen,” Mercer said with a laugh.
Planet of the aches
Gregory Polanco was scratched from the lineup about two hours before the start of Saturday's game because of what the team described as “right groin discomfort.” His status is day-to-day. According to the team, Polanco noticed the discomfort during Friday's game but not on any specific play. Josh Harrison started in left field Saturday.
Hurdle said Francisco Cervelli was examined by the training staff before Friday's game but did not provide details of Cervelli's illness. Cervelli played and went 2 for 4, including a key two-run double. He spent much of Saturday morning in the trainer's room and again was in the lineup.
Rivero makes a move
A slight adjustment on the mound helped Felipe Rivero get out of a jam in the eighth inning Friday.
Trying to protect a 4-2 lead, Rivero began spraying his fastball. He walked Kris Bryant and plunked Anthony Rizzo.
“He's got electric stuff,” Hurdle said. “There isn't anybody who he can't get out. Unfortunately, he dug himself a pretty big hole.”
With two on and none out, Rivero moved from the center of the rubber to the third-base side. It seemed to help him harness his fastball.
“It was a little tough from the beginning, with my delivery,” Rivero said. “When I moved, that's when it got a little bit better.”
Ben Zobrist battled Rivero through a 10-pitch at-bat. With his fastball still in doubt, Rivero tossed three straight changeups, which Zobrist fouled off.
“I was trying to settle in with the changeup and get control of my fastball,” Rivero said. “When I saw he was waiting on (the changeup), that's when I came with the fastball.”
Zobrist went down swinging at a 95.3 mph four-seamer.
With two outs, Jason Heyward legged out an infield single. First baseman John Jaso stepped in front of second baseman Josh Harrison to snag the ball, but Hayward beat the toss to Rivero at the bag with a headfirst slide.
Hurdle said he'd have to watch video of the play before assessing blame, but added, “It's a play where you'd like to think you can get an out when the ball is hit that softly. We weren't able to get one. We complicated it.”
With the bases loaded, Rivero fired a 98.7 mph fastball to pinch-hitter Willson Contreras, who hit a grounder to third baseman David Freese to snuff the threat.
Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.