Pregame: “Humbled” Pearce makes cut


BRADENTON, Fla. — Steve Pearce has been a feel-good story in spring training camp.

Remember his wild, rapid rise from A ball to the majors in 2007? All those homers? Back then, it seemed Pearce would be a fixture on the Opening Day roster, perhaps even the starting lineup. But, it never happened.

pearce“I’ve been humbled,” Pearce said. “In ’08, I really struggled. I tried to repeat that (previous) year. When things weren’t going my way, it was very frustrating. I’ve been humbled and it’s made me work a lot harder. Even though my numbers haven’t been as (good) as they were in ’07, I think I’ve developed as a baseball player. I feel like I’m a better hitter. I’ve learned how to drive the ball the other way. I’m taking pitches, walking and improving my on-base percentage.”

It looks like it’s paid off for Pearce, who’s the last man standing in what was a four-player battle for the backup corner infielder job. The Pirates haven’t yet made it official — there’s always a chance of a last-minute waiver claim or trade — but it seems Pearce has made the team.

If it indeed happens, this will be Pearce’s first Opening Day in the majors. He’s willing to be a bench player — for now, at least — if it means a major league job.

“For right now, if that’s where I’ve got to start, I’ll do it,” Pearce said. “Hopefully, the end of the year will bring more playing time. Or there’s always trades that can happen. I want to be ready, every single at-bat.”

I’ll have a bit more about Pearce’s journey the past four seasons in Monday’s Trib.

»»» Members of the Pirates’ 2010 Venezuelan Winter League team will receive their championship rings at McKechnie Field before today’s game against the Rays.

»»» The Pirates will break their 2009 spring training home attendance record (87,206). They need to draw 5,787 today to set the mark.

»»» Juuuuust in case right-hander James McDonald isn’t fully healed … righty Jeff Karstens is scheduled to pitch the first five innings tomorrow in the Grapefruit League finale against the Twins.

Lineups for this afternoon’s game:

Rays – 1. B.J. Upton cf, 2. Johnny Damon lf, 3. Evan Longoria 3b, 4. Kelly Shoppach c, 5. Ben Zobrist rf, 6. Sean Rodriguez 2b, 7. Dan Johnson 1b, 8. Elliot Johnson dh, 9. Reid Brignac ss. David Price, lhp

Pirates – 1. Jose Tabata lf, 2. Neil Walker 2b, 3. Andrew McCutchen, 4. Lyle Overbay 1b, 5. Matt Diaz rf, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Ryan Doumit c, 8. Ronny Cedeno ss, 9. Paul Maholm, lhp.