Back with the Orioles, Steve Pearce to fill hole at first base


With Chris Davis on disabled list, 31-year-old to receive playing time after re-signing with club Tuesday

May 01, 2014|By Dan Connolly | The Baltimore Sun

Orioles first baseman-outfielder Steve Pearce hasn’t had a normal career trajectory.

In 2012, he was in four different organizations in one year and was acquired two different times that season by both the Orioles and the New York Yankees.

But even given Pearce’s roller-coaster baseball life, these past 10 days still qualify as crazy.

“It was stressful, but ultimately, I’m back where I want to be,” Pearce said. “So I’m happy.”

After going just 1-for-7 in limited time as Chris Davis’ backup earlier this season, Pearce was designated for assignment April 22, meaning the club had 10 days to trade, release or try to put him through waivers.

Three days later, Davis strained his left oblique, and the Orioles were left without a first baseman with major league experience while Pearce was stuck in limbo.

“Shocker, unbelievable. Bad luck,” Pearce, 31, said about the timing of the moves. “I just hope Davis gets back soon. He’s one heck of a player, and I just hope I can fill his shoes for the time being.”

The Orioles put Pearce on release waivers Sunday, effectively making him a free agent. On Tuesday, he was claimed by the Toronto Blue Jays, but he chose to decline the claim and become a free agent. Hours later, he re-signed with the Orioles.

In the first game of Thursday’s doubleheader, Pearce started at first base for the Orioles against his original team, the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“I believe this team is a winner. And, not taking anything away from the other team, but this has been my place since 2012,” Pearce said. “This is where I want to be, and I wanted to come back.”

Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Pearce’s decision meant something to the organization.

“A lot of trust involved, because basically he was out there as a free agent with no contract for a period of time,” Showalter said. “He had options to go elsewhere, and he wanted to stay here, and we wanted him to stay here. It’s a little unusual … for that to happen in today’s game, and he likes it here, and we like him here.”

Showalter wouldn’t say that Pearce is his exclusive first baseman until Davis returns — Davis can’t come off the disabled list until at least May 11. But Pearce obviously will spend a lot of time there. Infielder Ryan Flaherty and right fielder Nick Markakis filled in at first base during the past week.

Pearce stayed in Baltimore while in baseball limbo, keeping active by running and working out. He hasn’t played since April 13 — his only start — when he went 1-for-4 against Toronto.

“I’m going to go up there and do my best,” Pearce said. “I haven’t been sitting on my butt. I‘ve been doing a lot of work while I was here. I wasn’t getting the opportunity at the plate, but I was taking a lot of hacks.”

Machado sits in first game, starts nightcap

Showalter referred to Thursday as Manny Machado’s Opening Day, but the player’s excitement wasn’t enough to get him into the lineup for both games of the doubleheader.

“I made sure that he knew we weren’t going to play him 18 innings,” Showalter said. “I just don’t think that’s very smart.”

Machado, who injured his left knee Sept. 23 in a game against the Tampa Bay Rays, had surgery in October and hasn’t played in a major league game since then, was activated Thursday. But he didn’t start the first game, and instead, he started the nightcap.

Showalter said before the first game that Machado would be available to pinch-hit in the right situation, which was one reason why he chose to start him in the second game instead of the first.

After three rehab games in High-A Frederick, Machado’s Orioles season debut was pushed back twice because of rain. He said he continued to prepare during the two days, and he looked forward to ending the wait.

“Just because it was raining out there doesn’t mean you couldn’t be working,” Machado said. “I’ve got one or two butterflies in there, but it’s just part of the game. It’s just another game out there, but it’s going to be my first one. I’m excited for it.”

Lombardozzi optioned to Triple-A

To make room for Machado on the 25-man roster, the club optioned infielder Steve Lombardozzi to Triple-A Norfolk.

Lombardozzi, who was acquired in March in a trade that sent infielder Alex Gonzalez to the Detroit Tigers, batted .292 with two RBIs and six runs scored in 19 games. He didn’t walk at all and struck out 13 times in 72 at-bats while playing solid defense.

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