Hurdle Says No Clarity to Shortstop Position

Newman, Gonzalez continue to battle

Jeff Hathhorn
March 16, 2019 - 3:53 pm

93.7 the Fan

LAKELAND, FL (93.7 the Fan) – As the Pirates faced Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer for the first time since they signed free agent deals with the Tigers, Bucs manager Clint Hurdle said there is no clarity so far as to who the new starting shortstop will be in 2019.

Kevin Newman started games instead of Mercer at the end of last year, but hit only .209 with a .235 slugging percentage.  Newman has gained 15 pounds of muscle in the off-season and said he’s driving the ball better this year.  So far this spring, Newman is hitting .276.

GM Neal Huntington acquired shortstop Erik Gonzalez from Cleveland in the off-season for a couple of Triple-A players.  Huntington believes the 27 year-old Gonzalez was blocked with the Indians behind three-time All-Star Francisco Lindor.

Gonzalez is 6’3”, can't be a free agent until 2023 and hit .265 with Cleveland last year, but hit 11 homers in 104 Triple A games in 2016.  This spring, Gonzalez is hitting .214 and coming off a three hit game on Friday.

Adam Frazier will be the starting second baseman and he’s responded at the plate, hitting .368 with a couple of homers.  Frazier had a .975 fielding percentage at second last year and hit .277 with 10 homers.

“You move on, you need to move on,” Hurdle said.  “You stand still, you get run over.  We’ve got two guys that have shown us a lot of defensive ability and range.  We have every opportunity to be just as good, but possibly better.  That’s our goal is to always be better.” 

“That is no pointing fingers that Harrison and Mercer weren’t good enough.  They did a great job and did everything they could do to be the best middle infield they could be.  We are trying to increase some things defensively, range and lateral movement, and I think we are in a position to do that.”

Hurdle said he had communication with Mercer and Harrison in the off-season and they are actually fulfilling a childhood dream of his.  A Michigan native, Hurdle always wanted to be a Detroit Tiger growing up.

“They landed in a good spot,” Hurdle said.  “It’s funny, you pick up the lineup today, and there they are one and two.  Good for them.”

“They meant a lot to our team.  They were both dependable guys that were able to help us navigate through the end of a 20 year draught and put us in a new position where expectations have changed and are much higher.  They helped create a clubhouse culture and environment that is also in a good place.”

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