"I never worried about it one bit, to be perfectly honest," Mercer said. "That's kind of the way I always am. Put my head down and keep playing."
Mercer opened the spring with just three hits in 23 at-bats but has managed seven hits in his last 11 at-bats to raise his spring average to .293. General manager Neal Huntington threw his support behind Mercer earlier in March.
"We love Jordy Mercer," Huntington said in early March. "The narrative is, he's the guy. He had a really tough start last year, but then was one of the best shortstops in the league. Shortstop is not a competition."
"Yeah, any time somebody says something like that about you -- especially coming from management -- it's really good to hear," Mercer said Monday. "Still, it's not going to change how I play. I just continue to push forward."
"What's the best thing that Barmes could do for our ballclub? That's to tutor this young kid, and that’s exactly what he did," Leyva said. "It was phenomenal to watch that."
Mercer hit .199 through the first 49 games last season. He bounced back with a .278 batting average, a .333 on-base percentage, 11 home runs and 19 doubles since June 2. Now that Mercer is the incumbent starter at shortstop, he is hoping to use his experience as an advantage to beat out Korean shortstop
"You can't substitute for innings played, you can't substitute for at-bats, you can't substitute for innings pitched at this level," Leyva said. "You talk all you want about it, but when you get 450 at-bats, you've had a major league season. When you've played 140 games, you've played a major league season. The only way you're going to get those is by competing and getting the job done."
But Kang said Wednesday he wasn't trying to put down Mercer and was trying to convey he's most comfortable at shortstop.
"That was a little bit of a misinterpretation. I don't want to steal his position. It's all about competition," Kang said, per MLB.com. "I want to have a friendly competition with all of the players and work along with all of them -- like a synergy.
"It's not like I'm stealing it, but if I get a chance, I would like to play shortstop. If I get another opportunity at another position, I'm open to playing another position."
The expectations are certainly riding high for Kang, who is coming off a 40-homer season in Korea. Kang also put himself in a tough position a few weeks ago when he was quoted as saying he "can play better than" Pirates shortstop
Although, Huntington said Kang was "absolutely horrified" how the quote about winning the shortstop job over Mercer was portrayed in the U.S., per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
"The one mistake I made through Kang process is not coming out and saying how much we like Jordy Mercer," Huntington told MLB Network Radio. "We like him."
Huntington said Kang is "most comfortable" at shortstop, but added he is going to play at second and third base in spring training as well.
While Korean shortstop Jung-ho Kang is on his way to Pittsburgh to finalize a deal with the
"If I get an opportunity to play consistently, I think I can play better (than Mercer)," Kang told the Yonhap News Agency. "I think I’ll have to talk to the team about my position, but I’d like to play shortstop."
Mercer played in a career-high 149 games last season, batting .255 with 12 home runs, 27 doubles and 55 RBI. Kang hit .356 with 40 home runs and 117 RBI in 117 games in 2014 for Nexen of the Korea Baseball Organization.
If Pittsburgh completes the deal with Kang, it seems Mercer views Kang's confidence as a plus for the team.
"It's good to see he has got confidence coming in," Mercer said. "All of us can use that, for sure. If we all set our sights on one goal and have confidence in our ability, the sky is the limit for this team. So, it’s exciting to see it."
|CBSSports.com Player Ranking|
|10/1/2014 vs San Francisco|
|vs San Francisco||20||6||1||.333||.600||.300|
|vs Cueto (Career)||19||6||1||.474||.316||.316|
|Last 7 Games|
|Complete Game Log|
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