Former USC star Pearce is glad for stability with the Orioles

Special to The StateJune 18, 2013 

Orioles Rays Baseball

Baltimore Orioles' Steve Pearce

CHRIS O'MEARA — AP

  • LIVING OUT OF A SUITCASE Former USC standout Steve Pearce, with the Orioles this season, was part of six transactions in 2012:

    March 27

    Released by the Minnesota Twins.

    March 29

    Signed as a free agent with Yankees.

    June 2

    Purchased by Orioles from Yankees.

    July 28

    Selected off waivers by Astros from Orioles.

    Aug. 27

    Purchased by Yankees from Astros.

    Sept. 29

    Selected off waivers by Orioles from Yankees.

— Compared to the 2012 season, when former South Carolina star Steve Perarce changed teams like NASCAR drivers change tires, this year has been a snooze.

“At the end of the year, I was exhausted. I was broken down physically,” said Pearce, 30, sitting in his locker in the spacious Baltimore Orioles clubhouse prior to a recent game.

And for six good reasons — the number of transactions Pearce was involved in this past season.

Pearce, drafted out of USC in 2005 by Pittsburgh, went from the Twins to the Yankees to the Orioles to the Astros, then back to the Yankees, and, finally, back to the Orioles — all during the 2012 season.

Late in September, the Orioles snatched him off waivers from the Yankees to aid a playoff drive that resulted in the first postseason trip for Baltimore since 1997. The Orioles lost in five games to the Yankees in the playoffs .

Pearce hit .254 in 71 at-bats for the Orioles, .254 in 63 at bats for Houston and .160 in 25 plate appearances for the Yankees.

“It took a toll on us, after the year was over,” said Pearce, an outfielder/infielder/DH. “When you are playing, you don’t feel it.”

To make the year more challenging, Pearce and his wife had their first child during the final days of the regular season.

“She is a trooper,” Pearce said of his wife. “She had to pack up the apartment” after all of the times he switched teams.

During the offseason, the Pearce family lives in Lakeland, Fla., where he went to high school before a stint at Indian River Community College and then Columbia with USC. But having a new child in the house last fall presented new challenges.

“I couldn’t sleep my way to health,” said Pearce, with a laugh.

Pearce went to spring training with the Orioles this season as a non-roster invitee and made the Opening Day roster in the final days of camp.

In games through Monday, he was hitting .235 in 81 at-bats over 27 games with three homers, three doubles and nine RBIs for manager Buck Showalter. He had a career-high three hits June 9 at Tampa Bay.

The right-handed hitter made his big-league debut with the Pirates in 2007, and had a career-high 165 at-bats two years later.

“I know my role. I had a really good spring training to make the Orioles,” he said. “I made the team as the 25th man. I am a spot starter and I start some versus lefties. I feel like I am holding my own. I grind every day. All I want to do is win.”

Pearce is versatile and valuable for the Orioles.

“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,” Showalter said of Pearce to MLB.com. “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 part of a strong South Carolina connection for the Orioles.

“It is the team I root for,” Pearce said of USC.

Second baseman Brian Roberts, now on the disabled list, played one year for the Gamecocks after he began his career at North Carolina.

Pitching coach Rick Adair is a native of Spartanburg, and catcher Matt Wieters grew up in Goose Creek. Pitcher Jason Hammel was born in Greenville, but grew up in Washington state.

Last season, Steve Tolleson, also from Spartanburg, spent part of the season with the Orioles as an infielder and he is now with Charlotte, the Triple-A team of the White Sox.

During a series against the Angels here, the Orioles faced right-handed reliever Michael Kohn, 26, a native of Camden. Pearce had one hit in three at-bats with a run scored on Tuesday in a win against the Angels but was taken out before Kohn came on the pitch in the seventh.

The Orioles, 40-31 through Monday, are again in the playoff hunt after they confounded the experts in 2012 with a postseason spot.

“We don’t listen to what other people say,” Pearce said. “When we are down 5-0, we are not out of it. We don’t give up.”

THE BIG SHOW

Former USC players who have appeared in the majors this season:

Player, TeamPos.Key Stats
Jackie Bradley Jr., Red SoxOF19 games, 8 hits, 3 2ZB, 1 HR
Steve Pearce, OriolesOF27 games, 19 hits, 3 2B, 3 HR
Landon Powell, MetsC17 games, 29 ABs, 6 hits
Brian Roberts, Orioles2B3 games before injury
Michael Roth, AngelsP9 games, 1-1, 14 strike outs
Justin Smoak, Mariners1B46 games, 37 hits, 7 2B, 3 HR

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