SARASOTA, Fla. - On opening day last year, Steve Pearce was in the Orioles’ starting lineup. But he knows he’s not a starter on this team and this spring training, he finds himself yet again fighting for a big league roster spot.
It’s life on the bubble. We’re not talking about the NCAA tourney and Pearce knows the baseball version quite well.
He seems to be a player always in the hunt for a bench spot, but never at the point where his roster spot is secure.
“It has been something I’ve dealt with my whole career,” Pearce said this morning. “I’ve always been a guy that doesn’t have the luxury of coming into spring training and taking time to work things out. My offseason starts sooner than some and my swing has to be right when I get here.
“You have to do whatever you can to lock in as early as possible. It starts around November and December. You have to be ready when February comes along.”
Pearce is batting .273 this spring (9-for-33) with three doubles, a homer and four RBIs. He has hit some balls hard that have been caught and Buck Showalter remarked the other day that Pearce is squaring balls up.
Matt Wieters or J.J. Hardy may have one approach to a spring game, to do whatever they need to do to get ready for the season. Pearce has to take a different approach.
“Yeah, those guys are established players and they can go for feel work or something during the game. My spring training is more about results as a bubble guy,” he said.
Pearce has played for four big league teams since the start of the 2011 season. In 2012, he was acquired by the Orioles, designated for assignment and later reacquired by the club.
It’s clear Showalter appreciates the ability that Pearce has to be able to get a hit when he’s not getting regular playing time.
“When you don’t get at-bats every day, you have to do the best with any opportunity you’re given,” Pearce said. “I think Buck knows how hard my job is and he knows I work really hard.”
So Pearce, who is out of options, is once again where he is about this time every year. Trying to win a roster spot and not get caught up in a numbers game.
He’s played for five major league teams but he wants to find a permanent home with this one.
“I love it here. I’ve played with a lot of teams and this is not a knock of any other team, but the atmosphere here is more relaxed,” Pearce said. “Some players don’t like this, but for me this is a perfect atmosphere for a player.”