PITTSBURGH -- In at least one sense, and temporarily, Jordy Mercer has already made Clint Barmes disappear. With the rookie on his bench and ready to either back up Josh Harrison or start himself at short, manager Clint Hurdle has the chance to do something that has been on his mind for a while.
Get Barmes off the frontline for an extended period, and get him into his batting laboratory. Barmes sat Tuesday night, and he'll remain out of sight in Wednesday night's homestand finale.
"Then with the off-day Thursday, it'll give him three days to regroup with some of the stuff he's working on," said Hurdle, who remains confident his former Colorado shortstop will resume hitting in his style.
That's something for the Pirates to hold onto. If it's trustworthy that baseball water seeks its own level -- that players reach their norm over the course of a long season -- Barmes' next four months would boost the Bucs' offense. The pre-2012 .252 career hitter would have to go 126-for-360 (.283) to get his current .170 there at the 500 at-bat mark.
"People here haven't seen the way Barmes can, and I still believe will, hit," Hurdle said. "I'm working with him on some specific things, and it could be a couple-of-days thing."
As for Mercer, he figured to make his Major League debut Tuesday night as a late-game defensive replacement for Harrison. Hurdle considers Mercer defensively superior to Harrison.
Hurdle might be tempted to have Mercer make his first big league start in Wednesday's series finale with the Reds, with Harrison returning to right field. However, he may want to give Mercer an easier first assignment than Cincinnati's scheduled starter, ace Johnny Cueto.
Then again, Matt Hague made his own big league debut earlier this season against the Phillies' Cliff Lee.