ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The Orioles played with a short bench yesterday, and they could be doing the same thing today.
Steve Pearce didn’t arrive at Tropicana Field yesterday until after the game, leaving manager Buck Showalter with three reserves. Today, Wilson Betemit is running a fever that is keeping him out of the lineup.
The Orioles will find out later whether Betemit is available to pinch-hit.
For now, the bench consists of left-handed hitting Ryan Flaherty, Chris Davis and Nick Johnson.
Pearce said he was “shocked” to find out yesterday that he was joining the Orioles. Pearce, who was playing for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, had opted out of his contract with the Yankees.
“I had a little bit of a miscommunication with my manager,” he said. “When he said I was going up, I thought I was going up with the Yankees, with my affiliated team. But I was going up with Baltimore and I’m excited to be here. I’m excited to be in the big leagues.”
Pearce wasn’t aware of the Orioles’ health and roster issues.
“I found out yesterday,” he said. “I haven’t really been following them. I’ve just been trying to keep up with what I’m doing down there. I’m just learning the past 24 hours what’s been going on.”
Pearce is a career .232 hitter in parts of five major league seasons with the Pirates, but he was hitting .321 with 11 homers and 30 RBIs in Triple-A this year. He also cut down on his strikeouts.
“Just regular playing time, getting comfortable,” he said. “I’ve been comfortable all year. Since the season started, there’s been a comfort zone and I’ve stayed in it all year.”
Pearce is starting in right field today, a position he’s played in 53 major league games and 88 minor league games. Most of his starts have come at first base.
“I’m probably more comfortable at first only because I’ve probably been playing it most of the time down there in Triple-A, but I’ve played a lot of outfield the last couple years, so it should be a smooth transition,” he said.
For the Rays:
Carlos Pena 1B
B.J. Upton CF
Matt Joyce RF
Ben Zobrist 2B
Luke Scott DH
Hideki Matsui LF
Will Rhymes 3B
Elliot Johnson SS
Jose Molina C
Matt Moore LHP
Johnson, who’s starting Game 1 of today’s doubleheader, could have opted out of his contract. He’s 1-3 with a 2.62 ERA in eight games (seven starts) for the Tides.
Britton’s potential return to the Orioles isn’t affected by this move. He’s been on the DL all season.
Another note: Reliever Jim Johnson has been named MLB’s Delivery Man of the Month for May.
Johnson went 0-0 with a 1.42 ERA in 12 games and converted all nine save chances. In 12 2/3 innings, he permitted two earned runs on seven hits, walked none and struck out eight.