Pearce welcomes the competition (with Spain’s lineup and note)

SARASOTA, Fla. - Steve Pearce is back in the lineup today, starting at first base against Team Spain. Conor Jackson most likely will come off the bench.

Yes, they’re being paired up again in this blog entry.

Pearce homered twice yesterday, giving him three this spring to go with nine RBIs. He’s collected six hits in 11 at-bats.

“I feel great at the plate, having good at-bats,” he said this morning. “I’m swinging at good pitches and squaring balls up. I feel good right now and just hope it continues. We’ve still got a month left in spring training.”

A month to show the Orioles that he belongs on the 25-man roster on opening day, that he brings more to the table than everyone else vying for the same role.

“Everybody I’m competing with, we all play the same positions,” he said. “They’re all versatile. But I played with this team a lot last year. They know who I am. Hopefully that will be a factor.”

Pearce got into 28 games with the Orioles between stops with the New York Yankees and Houston Astros, batting .254/.321/.437 with four doubles, three homers and 14 RBIs. The Orioles brought him back during the final week of the regular season, re-signed him shortly before the deadline to offer contracts to arbitration-eligible players, designated him for assignment and outrighted him in December, and invited him to camp.

Sounds crazy, but Pearce said the offseason was “a lot less stressful” than past winters.

“When I signed with these guys, it was kind of, I knew where I was going and I know the guys,” he added. “They know what I can do, obviously. It was a lot less stressful than years past.”

Jackson is trying to apply pressure. He had three hits yesterday, including a home run, and is making quite an impression.

“He’s a great hitter,” Pearce said. “It’s fun watching him hit right now. It’s also great hitting behind him because he’s always on base. We’re feeding off each other.

“It’s always good to have that competition. Competition brings out the best in players and it’s going to be a grind here the next month.”

Feel free to wish today’s starting pitcher, Jake Arrieta, a happy 27th birthday.

Also, relievers Jim Johnson and Darren O’Day are expected to make their 2013 Grapefruit League debuts today.

For Team Spain:
Engel Beltre CF
Paco Figueroa 2B
Rafael Alvarez DH
Barbaro Canizares 1B
Yunesky Sanchez 3B
Jesus Merchan SS
Yasser Gomez RF
Salomon Manriquez C
Gabriel Suarez LF

Richard Salazar LHP

The Orioles are listing Wei-Yin Chen, Brian Matusz, Tommy Hunter, T.J. McFarland and Daniel Schlereth as Friday night’s pitchers against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton. The starters are listed as TBA for Saturday night against the Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers and Sunday afternoon against the Pirates in Sarasota.

A few days ago, manager Buck Showalter suggested that Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez would pitch Saturday or Sunday.

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