PIT@CHC: Mercer snatches a popup in shallow center

CINCINNATI -- For the third straight day, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle went with Jordy Mercer at shortstop, as the Bucs began a three-game series against the Reds. He went 1-for-2 with a double and a walk in the 4-1 loss.

Mercer's name has been in the starting lineup more and more of late, but that doesn't mean Hurdle is abandoning Clint Barmes at short.

"I'm not going to go there now," Hurdle said when asked if Mercer had a chance to take over the job permanently. "But I've spoke to both of them, and Mercer's going to get some reps here because of the quality of his play and the way he's swinging the bat."

Including Monday, Mercer has started seven of the Pirates' 12 games since June 4. In the previous six starts, he batted .400 (10-for-25) with four doubles and six runs. Barmes entered Monday 1-for-his-last-20.

Hurdle has also been happy with Mercer's performance defensively. Although the 26-year-old won't blow anybody away with his quickness or range, Hurdle said he's been learning how to use angles to his advantage. Barmes has helped make that learning process a little easier.

"Barmes has learned to play shortstop by playing angles," Hurdle said. "He does it as well as anybody in the game. He works with [Mercer] every day. Clint Barmes is actually helping Jordy get better every day."

The next time Barmes is in the starting lineup -- whenever that may be -- Hurdle said it will be for a chunk of games. In the meantime, Hurdle has emphasized to Mercer to simply be steady and not try to make it on to the highlight reels.

"Be extraordinary at the ordinary," Hurdle said. "When a ground ball is hit to short, it ends up an out. That's what he's been doing."

Marte back in Pirates' starting lineup

Must C Catch: Marte lays out for a catch in the third

CINCINNATI -- Outfielder Starling Marte was back in the Pirates' starting lineup on Monday after missing time with discomfort in his left rib cage.

Marte was scratched before Thursday's game against the Giants and didn't start the next three games. He entered Sunday's win against the Dodgers in the sixth inning and finished the game, leaving manager Clint Hurdle confident Marte was ready for a pivotal series against the Reds.

"I told [Marte], 'Either you can play, or you can't play. This isn't tryout time. If you're going to go out there, you're going to go out there,'" Hurdle said. "He assured us he can play. His workout today was strong, he was out for early BP, he was running [and] he was moving around. We feel comfortable with him being out there."

In the third inning of Monday's 4-1 loss to the Reds, Marte made a fully extended diving catch in left, robbing Brandon Phillips of an RBI extra-base hit. But he struggled at the plate, going 0-for-5 with two strikeouts. For the season, he's batting .281 with six homers, 19 RBIs and 20 stolen bases.

"We like him at the top of the lineup," Hurdle said. "He gives us a different look. He can get some things done in left field as well, and he can get some things done on the bases."

Wandy gets throwing in with pitching coach

PIT@ATL: Wandy leaves the game with injury in first

CINCINNATI -- Wandy Rodriguez and A.J. Burnett -- two of the five starters on the disabled list for the Pirates -- made the trip to Cincinnati with the team this week. Before Monday's game, Rodriguez, who left a June 5 start against the Braves with left forearm tightness, was able to get some work done with pitching coach Ray Searage.

"I haven't gotten an official update, but [Rodriguez] went out today and threw a little bit off the mound with Ray," manager Clint Hurdle said. "I think it was just fastball, changeup. I spoke with him and he felt good. He seemed to be very positive."

Rodriguez said he felt no pain in his session with Searage. He plans to throw another bullpen on Thursday before heading out on a rehab start with Triple-A Indianapolis on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Burnett is still limited by his right calf strain, which forced him into a walking boot and put him on the 15-day disabled list last Thursday, retroactive to June 9.

"He's taken [the boot] on and off periodically," Hurdle said of Burnett. "He's not doing a whole lot right now. Just staying in the boot and getting treatment."

Worth noting

• Alex Presley got the start in right field and in the two-hole on Monday against the Reds. Presley, who went 1-for-4 with a strikeout, has led off six times this season, but Monday marked the first time he hit second. In 18 at-bats against Reds starter Mike Leake entering the series opener, Presley had eight hits (.444), including two homers, a double and a triple.

• Russell Martin, after being scratched from Sunday's lineup with lower body soreness, was back behind the plate on Monday. He had an RBI double for Pittsburgh's only run.