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Pirates notebook: Mercer might see more action at 2nd base

| Thursday, July 25, 2013, 3:00 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Neil Walker's funk against left-handed pitching could mean Jordy Mercer will get more starts at second base.

“It's an option,” manager Clint Hurdle said Thursday, when Mercer was in the lineup against Washington Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez. “Neil and I have talked about it.”

A switch-hitter, Walker is batting .193 with a .435 OPS against left-handers. Against righties, he's hitting .254 with an .800 OPS. In 40 at-bats this year against lefties, Mercer is batting .325 with a 1.025 OPS.

“Neil's doing everything he can to get better,” Hurdle said. “He's aware of the splits.”

Walker came off the disabled list Tuesday after missing time with a sore oblique. Hurdle said that also factored into the decision to give Walker the day off Thursday.

Hurdle said the option of Walker giving up switch-hitting “hasn't even been broached yet.”

Tabata on mend

Jose Tabata was out of the lineup after being hit by a pitch on the right forearm the night before.

“He got splattered pretty good,” Hurdle said.

Tabata took some swings before the game Thursday and said he was able to pinch-hit, if needed.

Hello, I must be going

Vic Black was in the shower around lunchtime Tuesday when Triple-A Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor called with news that Black was going to the big leagues.

“He told me to pack my bags and get out,” Black said. “I said, ‘All right,' then proceeded to stare at my bag and try to get it to pack itself. I didn't really grasp what was going on.”

The promotion came after Jason Grilli went on the disabled list with a strained forearm. Black, who made 29 outings in his first season at Indy, didn't have much time to process the information. His flight was due to leave in about three hours.

He sent a quick text message to his parents: “I'm going.” In Amarillo, Texas, Black's father picked up his cell phone and wondered, “Going where?”

“Usually when I say that, it means I'm going to lunch or something,” Black said with a laugh.

Black also called his sister and texted two of his best friends — one who is an Army helicopter pilot in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and another who coaches in Arkansas.

Eventually, Black told his folks that he was going to the big leagues, not to lunch. They made it to Washington in time to see the games Wednesday and Thursday.

Morton more aggressive

Righty Charlie Morton is having more success this season against left-handed batters. Lefties have a .276 average and .833 OPS against Morton. Last year they had a .327 average and .914 OPS.

Morton was more aggressive against lefties Monday against the Nationals and used the inside part of the plate more often. Morton was inspired after watching A.J. Burnett pitch Saturday and handcuff Reds slugger Jay Bruce.

“A.J. is a big fan of pitching inside to lefties,” catcher Russell Martin said. “They've got about the same kind of movement on their fastballs. Charlie had that aggressive mindset, and it worked out for him.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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