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Mercer gets much-deserved promotion to Triple-A, but struggling Curve offense takes hit
June 27, 2011 - Cory Giger
Great news for one worthy Curve hitter comes at a terrible time for an offense that's in the midst of a historic meltdown.
Jordy Mercer was promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis following Monday night's 3-1 loss to Reading. It was easy to see this coming for Mercer, who has enjoyed a powerful first half with 13 homers and 48 RBIs.
"I was excited," Mercer said upon finding out about the promotion. "The hard work has paid off a little bit, and now I'll just continue to work hard and keep moving up."
That's what the minor leagues are all about. Good players move up, and everyone wishes them well in the next stage of their career.
Mercer's departure, however, leaves a major void in the already struggling Curve lineup.
"Are we in a funk? Yeah. There's no question about it," manager P.J. Forbes said.
Funk doesn't come close to describing what's happened during the current six-game losing streak, four of which were shutouts.
The numbers read like a baseball horror story:
* The Curve have scored two runs in 53 innings, which included a franchise-record 33 consecutive scoreless innings. (For anyone curious, the major league record in that department is 48 innings.)
* They've compiled a .190 team batting average (35-for-184).
* They've gone 3-for-37 (.081) with runners in scoring position.
* They've gone 7-for-67 (.104) with runners on base.
* They've struck out 54 times with only nine walks.
"We're all just kind of struggling at the same time and can't get anything going," second baseman Brock Holt said. "When we do get guys on base, we can't get them in. It's basically a mentality thing right now for us."
Or, as Forbes so eloquently stated: "They're all physically gifted players or they wouldn't be here. Clean up the six inches between the ears, and I think everything else will follow."
It's baffling how an offense filled with good hitters could fall into such a rut.
No, scratch that.
Fall off a cliff is more like it.
A scoring drought is one thing. But this? Wow.
"This lineup is talented, and it's really unexplainable," Holt said.
Now the lineup is losing its most potent force.
Mercer's 48 RBIs rank second in the Eastern League. He's also seventh in home runs with 13, a whopping total given that he hit just three during the regular season for the Curve in 2010 (plus three more in the playoffs).
Even Mercer didn't believe he could put up those kind of power numbers returning to Double-A.
"Absolutely not. I really didn't," he said. "It kind of blew my mind, to tell you the truth. You prepare hard, you work hard and good things happen, and that's what I did."
Mercer leaves the Curve with a .268 batting average, but that's impressive considering he got off to a horrible start and hit just .154 in April. He batted .318 in May and .313 this month.
Forbes, who managed Mercer at Single-A Lynchburg in 2009 and knew his capabilities, had so much faith in the hitter that he inserted him into the cleanup spot early on despite his average being well below .200.
"He became a more polished hitter," Forbes said. "He understands his swing, he understands what he wants to do and executed. That's what it's all about. He worked diligently with [hitting coach Brandon Moore] to stay in the same hitting position, be in that hitting position on time and then just let his hands work."
Mercer played all of his games at shortstop for the Curve this season but likely will move around the infield at Indianapolis, much the same as he did last year for Altoona. He was solid in the field with only eight errors, and though he doesn't have great range at shortstop, he makes all the routine plays and has a strong, accurate arm.
Forbes pointed out his team has won 34 games and that it "wasn't always Jordy Mercer" doing the damage. He mentioned that in reference to the rest of the players being capable of picking up the slack on offense with Mercer gone.
That needs to happen in a hurry, or else this six-game losing streak could turn into a lengthy, season-crushing skid.
"These guys are trying to figure out how to get out of it, which is part of development," Forbes said. "You go through tough times, it's how you respond to them that makes you who you are."
The Curve were seven games below .500 with Mercer. Without his bat, there's no telling who they are or what will become of this season.
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.