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By: Josh Taylor, KDKA-TV Sports

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Jordy Mercer could return to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ starting lineup as early as Thursday against the Cincinnati Reds.

The veteran shortstop was removed from the Pirates’ home opener Wednesday at PNC Park against the Minnesota Twins after he jammed his right pinky diving back into first base during a pickoff attempt in the fourth inning.

“I still don’t know how I did it,” Mercer said, laughing. “I watched the replay, too, and I guess my face just told the whole story. I think we’ll probably have to wear something over it when I get on base, for sure. I hate those things, but I’ll have to, just until it heals.”

Mercer says the finger has improved dramatically in the 48 hours since the injury. Although it happened on his throwing hand, he says it doesn’t affect his ability to throw a baseball, but being able to hit was most in question.

“I took some swings in the [batting] cage, which is good news,” he said. “It’s all about getting the swelling down and to grip a bat, that’s the biggest thing.”

Manager Clint Hurdle says Mercer will be available off the bench Wednesday night against the Twins. Sean Rodriguez will start at shortstop.