Pearce aims for stability in new tour with O's
Utility man reacquired by club at end of '12 campaign after five stops
SARASOTA, Fla.-- It took Steve Pearce a little longer than usual to recover from last year's baseball season. Not that anyone can blame him.
In seven months, Pearce switched organizations five times, giving the 29-year-old a timeline that has a dizzying effect just reading it: there was the Minnesota Twins in Spring Training, the Yankees on a free-agent deal, the Orioles in a trade, the Astros on a waiver claim, back to New York for cash considerations and -- with a handful of days remaining in the regular season -- the Orioles reacquired him on a waiver claim.
"I was like, 'It's over, I'm in shutdown mode, I'm just going to be a dad this offseason,'" Pearce said of his mindset after being designated by the Yankees in late September. "And then I got a call [in the hospital], and I was like, 'No way, that's a new team.'"
But the Orioles' phone call -- which came on the day Pearce's wife had a baby -- to reacquire the outfielder/first baseman was done with one eye on 2013, where Pearce finds himself in Major League camp and competing for one of the team's bench spots.
"I'm glad I'm here, I'm glad they know me so I can actually try to take a less stressful approach to this Spring Training," said Pearce, who spent the first few years of his career with Pittsburgh before signing a Minor League deal with Minnesota on December 15, 2011.
"I know there's a spot behind [Chris] Davis that's open," he said. "So I'm doing what I can to claim that spot."
Davis is projected to be the Orioles' Opening Day first baseman, and Pearce -- who came up as a first baseman with the Pirates -- has been taking reps there, as well as in the outfield, this spring.
Manager Buck Showalter would prefer to have as versatile a bench as possible, and the spot behind Davis is one of only a few open positions in Baltimore's camp this spring.
"You didn't see it, because the need wasn't there last year with Mark [Reynolds] too much, this guy is OK at first base," Showalter said of Pearce. "That's one of the things we talked about inside, if you guys present yourself as multi-positional players and everything and we bring you in, you got to know where to go on the relays. You got to. Steve is a guy, if you are playing left center or right -- it's different priorities there for guys that are backing up, those angles. You got to know all those things. Stevie takes a lot of pride in knowing those things. He's a pro."
Pearce is off to a good start in the early go of spring games. He robbed Xavier Avery of a home run with a fantastic grab against the fence at Ed Smith Stadium in one of the team's intrasquad games last week, and he hit a two-run homer off Toronto's Mark Buehrle on Sunday.
The Orioles have at least a dozen players in camp capable of playing outfield (to varying degrees), but being able to play first makes Pearce a more enticing option -- along with guys like Ryan Flaherty, Russ Canzler and Conor Jackson -- particularly given the uncertainty behind Davis.
"That's the good thing about this team, they want to win," Pearce said of a Baltimore club that had more roster transactions than games played last season. "It's not like an organization that wanted to save [playing] time for people or they don't want to make those moves. They were just calling people up and up to Baltimore."
The Orioles figure to do the same thing this year, with an emphasis on acquiring players with options to give them roster flexibility. It's a simple organizational philosophy: if you don't do the job, they will find someone else who can, regardless of whether it's a marquee name or a journeyman from the independent league.
"That's the way the real world works, right?" Showalter said. "We've got ways to maneuver [the roster]. ... There's a morale in your organization that comes with that flexibility. They know we're going to be looking from within and not be constantly coveting other people's players."
And Pearce, having been acquired by the Orioles twice, hopes he can be part of the puzzle and avoid a repeat of the craziest year of his professional career.
"I probably have the most gear out of anyone in the country," Pearce said. "I have shirts, pants, all sorts of gear, bags with all different logos on them -- it's like, 'What the heck?'
"I got here [this spring], all moved here, and now I can go play baseball and focus on this team and see how this plays out. It's a lot better having that."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.