Orioles notes: Steve Pearce's eventful year continues with Yankees

Former Oriole back at Camden Yards with New York after bouncing from team to team this season

September 08, 2012|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

Steve Pearce has a wish for his old Orioles teammates.

"Hopefully, they can win the [American League] wild card," said Pearce, whom the Orioles waived in July and is now with the New York Yankees. "I really tried not to look back and think about that. [Baltimore] was a great experience, great team, great coaches. But baseball had different plans for me. I'm with the Yankees now, and that's where my focus is. I wish those guys the best of luck, but not against us."

The 29-year-old Pearce has had an incredibly busy and bizarre 2012 season. He went to spring training with the Minnesota Twins, but was cut in March and picked up by the Yankees, who sent him to Triple-A. Since he had an opt-out clause in his minor-league deal, the Yankees sold him to the Orioles on June 2 and he was immediately put on the club's 25-man roster.

Pearce had some big moments with the Orioles — five RBIs in a June 14 game against his original team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and a huge three-run homer against Los Angeles Angels left-hander C.J. Wilson that proved to be the game-winner on July 6 — but he was put on waivers in July as part of a roster crunch.

Pearce was claimed by the Houston Astros, played a month with them and then was sold to the Yankees at the end of August. On Friday night, he homered against the Orioles in the Yankees' 8-5 victory, his first home run in pinstripes.

"It's been an adventure, I'll tell you that," Pearce said. "If you would have told me this at the beginning of the year, I'd tell you you were crazy. I dealt with adversity this year, kept moving forward and I've found myself with the New York Yankees in the middle of a pennant race. There's nothing better than that."

Pearce's biggest adventure is forthcoming. His wife is nine months pregnant with the couple's first child. That's made all of the moves this season even more challenging.

"It's been a long year. Me and my wife have gone through a lot," he said. "All this moving around hasn't really helped her. We've gone through a lot. And this year isn't over yet. We'll see how this story ends in about a month."

Lineup shuffling with Sabathia

With left-hander CC Sabathia slated to pitch Saturday for the Yankees, Orioles manager Buck Showalter comprised a rather unusual lineup that included regular catcher Matt Wieters and now everyday left fielder Nate McLouth on the bench, while reserve catcher Taylor Teagarden and infielder-outfielder Steve Tolleson were starting.

Tolleson, who is hitting .185 as a big leaguer this season, had never started at designated hitter in his brief major-league career. He was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk when rosters expanded and hasn't started a game for the Orioles since July 25. But he does have two hits in three at-bats against Sabathia.

"[Tolleson has] made contributions for us. Went down to Norfolk and started swinging the bat well again and there's not many positive matchups with Sabathia out there," Showalter said. "We only have three or four guys that have had much success against him, but I think there's a lot of clubs that can say that."

In his lone start against Sabathia on May 15, Tolleson had two hits, including a double, and scored a run in the Orioles' 5-2 win.

"I think any time you face Sabathia it's a tough assignment. I've had a couple at-bats off of him in the past, so I kind of know what he's throwing going in there," he said. "But I just look at it as an opportunity to play in September in a pennant race. I wouldn't want it any other way."

Showalter loaded his lineup with all right-handers except leadoff hitter Nick Markakis. Wieters, a switch-hitter, often gets Sundays off, but he had played in eight straight games and has just five hits in 28 at-bats against Sabathia in his career (.208 average). So Saturday seemed like a good time for the starting catcher to rest.

"Matt, we pushed the envelope pretty good with him in the last eight days. And we found that with an off day [Saturday] and an off day Monday … that really refreshes his legs," Showalter said. "I think it makes us a better club and makes him a better player [when he is rested]. I don't want to take him for granted. I don't want to make that mistake."

Tillman pushed back a little

Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman, who was forced out of last Sunday's game with inflammation in his pitching elbow, was supposed to throw a bullpen session Saturday, but he didn't. He likely won't throw a bullpen for at least "a day or two," Showalter said.

Tillman's short-toss and long-toss catches have gone well, but doctors decided that Tillman should get a little more time to allow anti-inflammatory medicine to work. And, with an off day Monday, Showalter said the Orioles have the luxury to be careful with Tillman. Showalter stressed that there were no setbacks, but that the move is strictly precautionary.

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