BRADENTON -- Steve Pearce is attempting to re-invent himself.
He is trying his hand at third base, where he played during his high school days and in college when he put time in at both corner positions.
If he gets back in the groove at third it means the job of Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle becomes a lot easier. Pearce has proven he can play first and provide help in the outfield.
“Super Utility Guy! Do I like that title? I will take it for now,” Pearce says. “Until I earn a job I will do whatever it takes to make the club. I will play wherever they need me, first, third or the outfield. The more positions I can play the better chance I have of going north.”
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With his experience, Pearce believes he can be that ultra versatile player who makes managers sleep easier at night. He wants to be the guy who can bring flexibility to the Pirates roster.
The 5-11, 200 pound player, who turns 28 next month, seemed to be making good progress as the Pirates first baseman last year when he was hit with injuries.
“That was very disappointing. I was doing well, my playing time started to increase, and then I got hurt,” Pearce says. “I rolled my ankle and then started favoring it and it put pressure on my knee. Now, my knee is finally repaired and it allowed me to work out the way I wanted to this off season. I also had my patella tendon repaired. It was in pretty bad shape and they cut it open and clean it up.”
After the Pirates acquired first baseman Lyle Overbay during the offseason, Pearce knew he had to find another way to help the team and third base was the logical option. He feels it’s been going well, but would like to get more reps there.
“I love playing third base. It was my natural position growing up,” Pearce says. “But I’ve been playing first base for so long that I am trying to get re-acclimated to third. The most difficult thing is slowing the game down. It’s a long throw, but the ball gets to you quicker. I am pretty much taking it one play at a time.
“At first base, you get a lot of hot shots, but you are deeper and closer to the bag and you can do a lot of things to stop the ball. Defensively, I feel comfortable. I just want to get my reps over there and get some of the bad hops and see how I do. I am making progress.”
Hurdle hasn’t said anything to Pearce, but he is not concerned. Both parties know what needs to happen for him to make the club.
“It’s kind of understood what my role will be,” Pearce says. “I will be the utility guy and I will go out there every single day and practice and try to excel on the chances I get. Whenever somebody needs a day off or they need a right handed batter I hope to be the guy.”
Pearce feels good that the Pirates have stuck with him since he joined the organization as an eighth round draft choice in 2005. He wants to repay them for the faith they have showed in him and hopes he gets a chance.
“I am not concerned so much about batting average this spring. I just want to get quality at-bats,” Pearce said. “I have to start doing that now. It’s hard when you get only one at-bat, but if that’s what’s going to happen in the big leagues I’ve got to be ready to do it. I’ve got to grind it out and find some way to help the ball club.”
Pirates’ veteran Paul Maholm turned in his best outing of the spring Thursday night in the Pirates’ 11-8 loss to Baltimore at McKechnie Field. The lefty went four innings and allowed only one run, which came on a first-inning homer by Vladimir Guerrero. Pearce struck out in his only at-bat.
“I was aggressive and able to get some ground balls so guys could turn some double plays. I really had just two bad pitches,” Maholm said. “If I missed tonight it was in and I tied some guys up. It’s big for me. There is still some stuff to tidy up, but I feel good. Vlady hit one into the wind. He is an aggressive guy and has made a lot of pitchers pay. You see him a lot do what he did tonight, which was get a slider and hit a home run.”