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Pirates notebook: Mercer now the top option at shortstop

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Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer tags out the Reds' Shin-Soo Choo as Choo attempts to steal second base in the first inning at Great American Ball Park on Monday, June 17, 2013 in Cincinnati.

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Monday, June 17, 2013, 6:51 p.m.

CINCINNATI — Jordy Mercer will receive the lion's share of playing time at shortstop for the foreseeable future, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle announced prior to Monday's game against the Reds.

Mercer, 26, earned his fifth start in six games Monday, the most playing time he has received at shortstop.

Mercer's defense has improved in Hurdle's estimation, and Mercer's bat is far outperforming that of Barmes. The 34-year-old Barmes was batting .198 with a .496 OPS, entering Monday. Mercer was batting .289 with a .489 slugging mark.

Mercer doubled in his first at bat Monday.

“Mercer is going to get some reps here because of the quality of his (defensive) play and the way he is swinging the bat,” Hurdle said. “It's playing the guy that is obviously taking care of both sides of the ball very professionally. … I've spoken to Clint as well so he doesn't wonder when he's coming in. It won't just be for a game; we'll try to bundle (Barmes) for a few games, maybe against some good matchups.”

Mercer — the Pirates' third-round pick in 2008 — has improved his defense, which was critical for him in earning the bulk of playing time.

“He's a guy who is going to have to depend on angles. He's getting better with angles,” Hurdle said.

“Barmes is an angles guy. Barmes has learned how to play shortstop by playing angles. He does it as well as anyone in the game. Barmes is helping Jordy get better every day. We want (Mercer) to be extraordinary at the ordinary. That's what I remind Jordy of all the time. We don't need the ESPN highlight play.”

Rodriguez throws off mound; Burnett ‘not doing a whole lot'

Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez (forearm) threw 40 pitches in his bullpen session Monday and felt no pain afterward. He will throw another bullpen Thursday and will make a rehab start Sunday at Triple-A Indianapolis.

“He went out and threw a little bit off the mound; I think it was just fastball-changeup,” Hurdle said. “I spoke with him. He felt good. He seemed to be very positive.”

No. 1 starter A.J. Burnett (strained calf) is still walking with a limp. Burnett missed his start Friday and was placed on the disabled list.

“(Burnett) is not doing a whole lot right now besides getting treatments,” Hurdle said.

Contreras re-signed

The Pirates signed right-handed pitcher Jose Contreras to a minor league contract. The Pirates released Contreras earlier this month. Contreras has a 9.00 ERA in five innings this season with the Pirates. The 41-year-old will report to Triple-A Indianapolis.

Aroldis 2.0?

Pirates left-handed reliever Justin Wilson touched 100 mph Saturday against the Dodgers.

According to PitchFx. It's the first time Wilson has reached 100 mph in his career.

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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