Merrifield close to getting big call

Published 9:27 am Thursday, July 23, 2015

When Kansas City’s top player, outfielder Alex Gordon, went to the disabled list with an injury on July 8, Whit Merrifield of Advance was in line to get the call he’s been waiting for.

He was pulled out of his game for the Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers. That’s a sign that something was brewing. Maybe Merrifield was finally going to get to go to The Show. It was right there, beautiful to envision and almost close enough to touch.

And then it wasn’t.

Gordon, an all-star performer, went down with a strained groin.

“I got taken out of the game,” Merrifield, 26, told the Winston-Salem Journal. “Kansas City called and weren’t sure of the exact move they were going to make at the moment. That was one of the options and they wanted to take me out of the game just in case they did decide to call me up. They didn’t want me in there and risk me getting hurt or anything like that.”

Instead of pulling up Merrifield, who can play a handful of positions, Kansas City decided to go with Brandon Finnegan, a 22-year-old lefthanded relief pitcher. It was Merrifield’s second letdown in recent months. He came oh-so-close to making Kansas City’s opening-day roster; he had a fabulous Spring Training and was one of the final cuts.

“I tried not to get my hopes up, but it’s hard not to at that moment,” Merrifield said. “It was disappointing, but it’s part of the business.”

Merrifield’s numbers for Omaha are strong. Through the first half of the season, spanning 85 games, he was hitting .293 (98 for 335) with 21 doubles, four triples, three home runs and 22 RBIs. He could have played in the Triple-A All-Star Game as a replacement, but he declined the opportunity, choosing to spend time with family.

“I’m a big believer in God’s timing, and His timing is perfect with everything,” he said. “So maybe it’s not in His plans for me to be a major leaguer. And if it’s not, I’m fine with that.”

Merrifield has a great relationship with Omaha hitting coach Tommy Gregg, a Winston-Salem native who played at Reynolds High and Wake Forest before reaching the major leagues in 1987. He spent most of his nine-year career with the Atlanta Braves.

“He’s a good guy to bounce stuff off of,” Merrifield said. “He says not to worry about what’s going on in the front office. Just show up every day and do the best you can. Prepare like today is the day you’re getting the call.”