Flushing, NY: These are the Cleveland Indians and battling hard for postseason position as a possible winner of the Al Central division or one of two wildcard teams out of the American League. Thursday night at Citi Field the Indians concluded a week stay in New York after a four -game series with the Yankees in the Bronx and three with the Mets in Queens.
A young Indians team also has a potent lineup and guided under manager Terry Francona a half game in front of Oakland and Tampa Bay in the wildcard.
Thursday night, 25 year old Oscar Mercado was not in the Indians’ starting lineup. It had nothing to do with his production at the plate or ability to grab balls in the outfield.
“My job is just to be ready every time I get the opportunity to get the team a win,” he said Thursday afternoon in the Indians clubhouse. “It’s the game of baseball. You do what you can.”
Mercado, of Colombian heritage, residing in Tampa Florida, at the July trade deadline of last year was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for outfielders Conner Capel and Jhon Torres.
He was recalled from the Indians Triple-A affiliate Columbus in Mid-May. The production was there batting .294, four home runs 24 runs scored, 15 RBI in 30 games.
It has been an amazing ride in his brief stint in the majors. There has been a first career two-run homer game against the Tigers, a career high five hit game a few days later on July 19th against the Royals.
“Feel pretty good,” he said. “It’s been a blessing to be a part of this team this brotherhood. It’s a great team and just to be able to be a part of it. it’s an honor and thankful to the organization.”
Entering the finale of three at Citi Field, Mercado was hitting .291 since the All-Star break, six home runs and 18 RBI. The last seven games, 9-for-23, a .391 clip, a home run, three RBI.
Don’t let the limited playing time fool you. He is making an impact with the Indians as a starter and off the bench. Mercado recorded his first career walk-off hit June 11 against the Reds with a single in the 11th inning.
And with this stretch run of games and all important with the Indians fighting for position, Oscar Mercado continues to be a major player.
He has adjusted to his role after a career at Tampa Gaither HIgh School the same school that produced Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash. Later, Meercado took his talents to Florida State University.
It has been a product in the making and patience.
“You gotta give the player time, see if the player figures it out, especially a high school guy.” he said. “There are some guys that adapt to it right away, some don’t. Eventually everything comes into its own whether you never figure it out or you do. It’s unfair to judge someone while they are just paving their own way.”
He added, “A lot of us don’t blossom at the right time.”
But Mercado has paved the way and came to the Indians at the right time. He is proud of the Latino heritage and saw that more the last week in New York City.
“I’m a citizen of both countries,” he said about Columbia and America. “Grew up in Tampa, fluent in spanish, have a Hispanic culture and adapted to the American way.”
And the Indians clubhouse, with a predominant Latino culture, has been easy to understand. Part of winning is getting along. It helps the chemistry on the field which carries from the clubhouse with Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana, Jose Ramirez and Yasiel Puig.
That’s a mixture representing Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Cuba.
“We understand each others culture,” Mercado said.” Not just the latinos. Everyone does a good job of accepting each other and understanding one another.”
Now after this long stay in New York, Mercado and the Indians are ready to return home to Cleveland. The Indians begin a three-game series with the Kansas City Royals Friday night.
Then an off day and on the road again to Detroit and Tampa Bay. Oscar Mercado is expected to start a good amount of those games in the outfield.
“I think down the stretch we’ll be perfectly fine, “he said. “We’re playing tough teams. Having a battle down the wire we’ll be what we are made of. Will be an exciting next month and a half.”
“Ready to get back home to Cleveland,” he said.”
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