As temperatures rise in Northeast Ohio, so does the excitement of watching rookie Oscar Mercado break out at the plate. His name is becoming one that suddenly is being mentioned around water coolers by Tribe fans everywhere. Mercado was acquired from the St Louis Cardinals last year in a trade that barely hit a blip on the fans’ radar. However, he is quickly becoming one of the hottest players on the team right now. He’s currently batting .281 and feasted off the Detroit Tigers during the recent sweep of the series. He had three home runs and two stolen bases within 24 hours and ended the series with six RBI.
Monday’s game was notable for the young star. After a 54-minute rain delay, he hit a solo shot to left-center which was his first career multi-homer game. Not only is Mercado’s bat heating up, but he is also playing some impressive defense. In last night’s game, he leaped into the wall in center to make an inning-ending catch with two runners on.
Yes, Tribe fans are talking about the rookie, but MLB has noticed him as well. Yesterday, Major League Baseball ranked Mercado the third-best center fielder in the American League. That’s quite an honor for the kid who isn’t a big name in the league. He’s now inserted himself into the race for American League Rookie of the Year. With the way he’s playing currently, it appears the Indians got quite a steal in the trade with the Cardinals.
If the Tribe wants to make a run at October, they needed their offense to find some consistency. With Francona plugging Mercado in the number two spot, the young player seems to have found his stride after battling an 0-18 stretch. The loss of Michael Brantley are big shoes to fill for the rookie, but the hopes are he can become a worthy successor to the veteran.
When talking about Mercado, manager Terry Francona said “He’s a great kid. A little raw, that’s not surprising it’s is first time in the Major Leagues. But he’s really conscientious. He listens; he wants to get better, and he has the tools to do it.”
The words of Francona rang true as Mercado admittedly “got down on himself during his slump,” yet he went to his teammates and coaches for advice. As Tito said, “he wants to get better” and he’s doing exactly that.
Mercado said his team told him “You’re not always going to be great or even good, but sometimes you gotta just bear down and grind through these situations.” Mercado took that mentality into the series with Detroit and gained both confidence and comradery within the team. The mental toughness he’s acquiring is certainly a huge credit to the way he’s playing as of late.