Jordy Mercer hit just three home runs in his first 126 Double-A games, but he's belted 10 in his last 41 games for the Curve.
Such a drastic increase would indicate Mercer has done something different at the plate or changed his approach.
"Honestly, I haven't," Mercer said. "It's the same swing. My mentality is still the same -- hit hard line drives. It's just this time they're going over the wall. I don't know what to say."
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Jordy Mercer already has seven home runs after hitting just three during the entire 2010 regular season for the Curve.
It's easy, though, to say if Mercer can continue to show that kind of power as a shortstop, his value to the Pirates or another organization will soar.
"He has one of the prettiest right-handed swings you'll see when he's right," Curve manager P.J. Forbes said. "The ball flying off his bat when he's right has the true spin, whether it's to right-center or left."
Mercer hit two homers Wednesday at Harrisburg and cracked a two-run shot Saturday for his team-leading seventh of the season. He also leads the club with 21 RBIs.
"What I see this year is him hunting pitches, which means that he's looking for one pitch in one spot in a certain situation," Forbes said. "What he's doing is he's not missing it. When you get that pitch and you don't miss it, good things are gonna happen."
Mercer started showing more power in the 2010 playoffs, ripping three homers in eight games after having only three during the regular season.
"I didn't do anything different," he said. "It's just the ball went over the wall. I can't really explain it. I was all for it, though. I hit two in one game, the first time I had ever done that in pro ball. So it was a pretty cool feeling."
Mercer came on strong in the second half to finish 2010 with a .282 average and 65 RBIs. Despite having a solid all-around season, the Pirates sent him back to Double-A this year to play shortstop every day.
Mercer's batting average hasn't been much to look at for most of the season as he hit just .154 in April. Much of that was tough luck, however, as Forbes repeatedly talked about how Mercer was hitting as many balls hard as anyone on the team.
Forbes had so much confidence in Mercer that he stuck him in the cleanup spot.
"He came up and told me he believes in me and that I've been hitting the ball pretty well [but] just had nothing really to show for it," said Mercer, who has been hot lately to raise the average to .230.
Regardless of the increased home run total, Mercer considers himself a gap hitter and will maintain that approach instead of trying to hit the ball out of the park.
Still, with seven homers already, he's on pace to hit more than 20 for the Curve. That almost certainly won't happen, though, since he'd be promoted to Triple-A before then.
"He has that kind of power," Forbes said, "but I hope he's not a 20-home run guy in this league. I hope he's not because that means he's not here."
The 6-foot-3, 191-pounder has been steady defensively despite five errors, plus he has a superb arm (he was a closer in college).
The Pirates have been searching for their shortstop of the future since Jack Wilson left town, and if Mercer can hit well enough up the line, he has all the tools to be considered for the job.
Cory Giger is the host of "Sports Central" from 4 to 6 p.m. daily on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM. He can be reached at 949-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.