CIN@PIT: Mercer makes an impressive play at short

ST. LOUIS -- Left fielder Starling Marte was not the only slump-ridden Pirates player kept out of Friday night's series opener in Busch Stadium.

Shortstop Jordy Mercer made way for his forebear, Clint Barmes. Mercer's bat work through 22 games has been one of the young season's major disappointments, particularly his absence of power.

Mercer has only one extra-base hit (a double) among the total of 11 that depress his average to .183, with an OPS of .442.

In manager Clint Hurdle's view, the 27-year-old just needs to remember that it is a long season.

"He hasn't gotten out clean, and we have a tendency to try to make up for lost time," Hurdle said, "to try to get five hits in three at-bats.

"His No. 1 is, he's got to get started early [with the batter's box approach]. That's getting ready to hit, the preparation -- his first move to the ball, his trigger. It needs to be earlier."

There is also the obvious added pressure that comes with expectation. Last season, as a frequent contributor but, still, only Barmes' lieutenant, Mercer batted .285 with 32 extra-base hits (22 doubles, two triples, eight homers) giving him a .772 OPS.

Martin's return to lineup short-lived after brief hiatus

CIN@PIT: Martin throws out Mesoraco trying to steal

ST. LOUIS -- Russell Martin gave it a go. But after 5 1/2 innings, three at-bats and two painful trots up the first-base line, the Pirates catcher had to give in.

Returning to the lineup after sitting out two games, Martin endured for a little longer than half of Friday night's 1-0 loss to the Cardinals.

When he departed following his grounder to third in the sixth inning, the club's official announcement attributed the removal to "hamstring tightness."

After the gamer, however, manager Clint Hurdle tried to move away from that conclusion.

"It may not be correct to say that was the reason," said Hurdle, otherwise deferring the matter to the club's medical personnel.

Martin was receiving treatment, and his situation was to be re-evaluated Saturday. His placement on the disabled list, and the return from Triple-A Indianapolis of Tony Sanchez, is entirely possible.

Hurdle gives Marte night off from lineup for full rest

PIT@CIN: Marte connects for a solo shot

ST. LOUIS -- The last time Clint Hurdle wanted to give Starling Marte a game off, the Pirates manager ran into a problem. Rather, Jose Tabata ran into a wall, and Hurdle sent Marte out on the Great American Ball Park field to replace him, playing the rest of that April 16 game.

"So I don't think he got anything out of it," Hurdle said of Marte's interrupted respite. "And that was disappointing for me, because I did have another option [to replace Tabata in that game]. I could've run another guy out there. I should've stayed with the plan."

As it was, while finishing off that game, Marte had two at-bats and struck out once -- the problem that had prescribed the rest in the first place.

After that, the Bucs' erratic leadoff batter went 9-for-38 on the just-concluded eight-game homestand, drawing two walks and fanning 11 times.

Time for another time-out, reasoned Hurdle, who had at least two other good reasons for sticking Tabata into the leadoff spot and into left field on Friday night: Tabata went 3-for-5 last season against Friday's starter (Shelby Miller) and the Cardinals are due to give the ball on Saturday to a left-hander (Tyler Lyons).

Southpaws tend to be good for the confidence of Marte. He raked them at a .402 clip last season.

Prospect Glasnow makes scoreless season debut

Mayo, Callis debate the 2014 Minors strikeout leader

After being held back in extended spring training because of a back injury, Tyler Glasnow made his season debut Friday night for Class A Advanced Bradenton. The right-hander threw five scoreless innings, but St. Lucie came back to defeat Bradenton, 13-4.

Glasnow, the Pirates' No. 3 prospect and No. 26 overall, struck out six batters. He allowed two hits and three walks.

Glasnow broke out last season as a 19-year old with Class A West Virginia. He posted a 2.18 ERA and led all Pirates Minor Leagues with 164 strikeouts in 111 1/3 innings.

Josh Bell, the Pirates' No. 6 prospect and No. 71 overall, went 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI in the loss. He is hitting .280 in 19 games this season.

First number, last word

20: Streak of consecutive scoreless innings, by Brandon Cumpton, ended in the sixth inning of Thursday's game; that was the longest by a Pirates rookie since Zach Duke's 22 in 2005.

"Not taking anything from Andrew, but when Andrew was in the Minor Leagues, he was nothing close to Polanco. This kid has the potential to be one of the best ever." -- Carlos Garcia, manager of the Pirates Double-A Altoona affiliate, comparing reigning National League MVP Andrew McCutchen to prospect Gregory Polanco, in Sports Illustrated.

Worth noting

• Right-hander Kyle McPherson was progressing nicely on the rehab road from Tommy John surgery -- until suffering a cracked right elbow, which required him to undergo another operation, on Wednesday.

Dr. James Andrews performed the surgery, after his earlier diagnosis that McPherson had fractured the right medial epicondle -- the location in the joint where the ulnar collateral ligament, object of the TJ surgery, attaches to the elbow.

• The Bucs went 3-6 during the 2013 regular season in Busch Stadium -- the only road park in which they played more than one series with a losing record.

• In the two games preceding Friday night's here, Pirates starting pitchers saw six runs cross the plate in three scoring innings on a total of two hits. Charlie Morton allowed his first run on Wednesday without a hit then gave up three others later on one hit, and Cumpton on Thursday gave up a two-run double after hitting a couple of Reds batters.