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Wednesday, 13 July 2011 15:56

Mercurio dares pitchers to pitch him inside

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By Chris Jaster — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Relly Mercurio is serving notice to opposing Western Major Baseball League pitchers. If they pitch him inside, then they can expect the ball to leave the yard.

Since he joined the Swift Current Indians on June 30 in a game against Saskatoon, Mercurio has seen a steady diet of outside pitches.

It wasn’t until his sixth game with the team that Houston, Texas saw an inside, and he punished the Melville pitcher. With one quick swing, the left-handed batter took the ball for a ride over the right field wall.

“I didn't play too much this spring, but my bat's just heating up,” said Mercurio, who is sporting a .250 batting average through 10 games this season. “Pitchers better learn from that or else I'll start hitting them out to left.”

It’s not just pitchers that Mercurio said should be afraid of him. Batters who are hoping to leg out singles or get on base with overthrows at first base can’t feel too confident with Mercurio manning that bag.

Few balls get past the six-foot-five first baseman. Mercurio takes pride in being a big target and stretching to snag throws that get away from infielders.

“I've been called a wall over there before,” said Mercurio, who is heading into his redshirt senior season with Texas Christian University. “I definitely feel like if the infielders are confident or if they throw one in the dirt that I can get it or if they throw it high that I can catch it. They'll be more sure of themselves and they're going to make better throws and play all-around better defence.”

“Nothing gets by him,” added Luke Berry. “You see me running in from the outfield as soon as there's a ground ball because we know whether it's a pick or a blocked ball, he'll come through for us.”

Consistency at first base and a little more power to the Indians lineup has been needed for a while.

Shaun Hoover was supposed to be the team’s starting first baseman during the season, but he was released earlier in the season after batting just .182 at the plate in 12 games.

Conrad Funk and Shawn Lee filled in at first for the Tribe while Swift Current’s manager, Joe Carnahan, looked for another first baseman. After hearing about Mercurio from Collin Hetzler, who played with Mercurio on the Texas Tomcats in the Texas Collegiate League last season, Carnahan put in a call to bring him up to Canada.

Mercurio couldn’t have been happier to come up to Swift Current to play baseball instead of spending his summer on a real estate development internship.

His impact on the team was felt immediately as the team has gone 7-3 — including a 4-3 win over Melville July 6, a 5-0 loss to Melville July 7, a 1-0 win over Medicine Hat July 8, a 2-1 win over Regina July 11 and a 4-3 extra inning loss to Regina July 12 — since his arrival.

He has also brought some leadership qualities with him as well.

“He brings a lot of knowledge to the table with small ball and being a general hitter,” said Berry. “He's a chippy guy. You can see that over there. He's blocking balls and stuff. He's a tough guy and you can learn from that. You can follow him leadership wise.”

Mercurio will try to continue leading the Indians (18-11) to more victories and the Central Division crown when they go on a four-game road trip that starts with a pair of games in Melville July 15 and 16. They will have a pair of games in Yorkton July 19 and 20 before returning home to face the Regina at 7:05 July 21.

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