Steve Pearce

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Steven Wayne Pearce

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Biographical Information[edit]

Steve Pearce joined the Pittsburgh Pirates as a September call-up in 2007. He drew notice when he led the minor leagues in home runs in April of 2007. He then played for the Pirates every season from 2007 to 2011. The highlight of his career was being named the MVP of the 2018 World Series.

Pearce hit .400 in high school. After his second year in community college (he hit 17 homers and led the team in average both years at Indian River), he was picked by the Minnesota Twins in the 45th round of the 2003 amateur draft but did not sign. He transferred to the University of South Carolina and batted .346/?/.703 as a corner infielder in his junior year. The team was ranked third in the nation by Baseball America and Pearce led the team in homers (21), average and RBI (70). He tied for 4th in NCAA Division I in home runs and then starred in the 2004 College World Series, in which USC finished in the final four. Pearce hit .571/?/.762 and had the best batting average in the College World Series that year. He made the All-Tournament team at first base. He was error-free at first base in 438 chances, a school record for fielding percentage. The Boston Red Sox took him in the 10th round of the 2004 amateur draft. He played for the Cotuit Kettlers that summer and hit .277/?/.361 while playing catcher primarily. His poor performance made him decide not to sign with Boston and opt for another year at college.

Steve hit .358/~.417/.703 as a senior at USC. He tied Brian Pettway for 9th in NCAA Division I with 21 home runs and was the second team Baseball America All-American for Division I at first base, the highest senior selected. Unfortunately, the first-team first baseman was a fellow Southeastern Conference player, Matt LaPorta, costing Pearce a shot at the All-Conference team. The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Pearce in the 8th round of the 2005 amateur draft. He was signed by scout Jack Powell and made his pro debut that summer.

Pearce was assigned to the Williamsport Crosscutters and hit .301/.381/.474 in 2005, with 26 doubles, 48 runs and 52 RBI in 72 games. His plate discipline was improved over what he had shown in college. He led the New York-Penn League in doubles and led the league's first basemen in putouts (651), assists (58) and double plays (65) while tying Mark Ori for the lead in errors (9).

In 2006, Pearce led Pirates farmhands in slugging (.523), extra-base hits (68), homers (26), doubles (40) and total bases (255). He batted .288/.363/.606 in 41 games for the Hickory Crawdads and .265/.348/.482 in 90 games for the Lynchburg Hillcats. He led Carolina League first basemen with 10 errors.

Pearce began 2007 with a bang, hitting .347/.412/.867 for Lynchburg with 19 runs, 24 RBI and 11 home runs in 19 games. In his last 10 games with the team, he went 18 for 41 with 10 homers and 22 RBI, bringing up shades of what Brad Eldred had done with the team several years earlier. Steve led the US-based minor leagues in home runs in April and was promoted to the Altoona Curve.

He was named to the USA team roster for the 2007 Futures Game. He started at first base for the US, hitting 5th, and went 0 for 1 with a walk.

In 81 games in Altoona, Pearce batted .334/.400/.596 with 57 runs and 72 RBI. He tied Ronny Paulino's team record by reaching base in 33 straight games in June and July. On July 29, he was promoted to the Indianapolis Indians. At the time, he was leading all of the affiliated minor leagues with 96 RBI.

Pearce remained hot in AAA, hitting .320/.366/.557 in 34 games. Overall, in 134 minor league games in 2007, Steve batted .333/.394/.622 with 94 runs, 40 doubles, 31 homers, 113 RBI and 14 steals in 16 tries. Baseball America called it the 10th-best minor league season of 2007. This led to a September call-up to Pittsburgh. While management said they did not intend to play him much (after all, the team was certain to finish below .500 and did not need to try out any prospects, instead able to play their mediocrities), Pearce started his first day up because Xavier Nady was injured. Pearce hit sixth and played right field.

In his first major league at-bat, Pearce faced David Bush with two on and two out in the first inning. He hit a hard drive to the warning track but Bill Hall made a diving catch. Steve singled against Bush three innings later and finished the day 2 for 4. By the next day, he was back on the bench, where Pittsburgh was used to keeping prospects. With Nady and Ryan Doumit continuing to be hurt, Pearce would play regularly for a while. He hit .294/.342/.397 for the 2007 Pirates, with a surprising zero home runs in 68 AB and a 91 OPS+ due to the disappointing power outage.

Overall in 2007, Pearce finished third in the affiliated minors in total bases (303) behind Craig Brazell and Jay Bruce, fourth in RBI, fifth in extra-base hits (75), second in slugging behind Geovany Soto, tied for 7th in average and tied for 7th in home runs. Minor League Baseball named him the offensive player of the year.

Pearce joined Team USA for the 2007 Baseball World Cup but hit only .212/.257/.333 despite being used frequently in the cleanup slot. The only less productive member of the team was Brian Bixler, a fellow Pirate minor leaguer. The US still won its first Gold Medal in a Baseball World Cup in over 30 years.

After having spent his entire career with the Pirates, he became a free agent after the 2011 season and was a member of four different organizations in 2012, including two of them twice! He signed with the Minnesota Twins on December 15th, but was released at the end of spring training in late March. He then signed with the New York Yankees who assigned him to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, where he played 52 games, hitting a solid .321 with 15 doubles and 11 homers. On June 2nd, he was purchased by the Baltimore Orioles and immediately added to the major league roster. He wasn't done with his peregrinations though. After 28 games for the Orioles, during which he hit .254 with 3 homers, he was claimed on waivers by the Houston Astros at the end of July. He got into 21 games with the Astros, again hitting .254, but with no homers. A month later, the Yankees purchased him back, wishing to add an experienced bat for the home stretch with Mark Teixeira hampered by a pulled muscle. He went 4 for 25 in 12 games for New York then was placed on waivers once more at the end of September and was picked up by the Orioles again, although it was too late for him to see any game action with the Birds.

He did make the Orioles' roster out of spring training in 2013, but he started the year stone cold, going hitless in his first 17 at-bats. Things got better after that and on May 4th he had a three-hit game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, including a hit off Garrett Richards in the 10th that made the difference in Baltimore's 5-4 win. He ended up playing 44 games for the Orioles, during which he hit .261, with 4 homers and 13 RBIs, as his season was cut short by an injury. In 2014, he had a breakthrough year, as he worked his way into the starting line-up by some clutch hitting as a substitute early in the year, and eventually took over at first base for Chris Davis when the latter was suspended for the last 24 games of the season. He played a career-high 102 games, during which he hit .293 with 26 doubles,and 21 homers; he drove in 49 runs and his OPS+ was an outstanding 160. He went 3 for 10 as the Orioles swept the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS, but was only 1 for 17 in the ALCS as the Orioles were in turn swept by the Kansas City Royals.

Now considered a key member of the Orioles, Pearce opened the 2015 season on a strong note by homering in the team's first two games. He hit his first career grand slam on May 21st, against J.A. Happ of the Seattle Mariners. However, his offensive production fell, as he hit only .218, although he continued to display good power as he slugged 13 doubles and 15 homers in 92 games. He became a free agent after the season and on January 28, 2016, he signed a one-year contract with the Tampa Bay Rays. The signing was a bit surprising, given the Rays were loaded with outfielders and first basemen, and had acquired another one in a trade the same day in Corey Dickerson, making it unclear how they would find playing time for all of these players unless they made more moves before the start of the year. Indeed, Pearce ended up squeezed for playing time, playing only 60 games in four months (he also missed two weeks in early July because of an injury). During that time he hit extremely well, with a .309 average, 10 homers and 29 RBIs, good for an OPS+ of 147. At the trading deadline on August 1st, the Orioles decided to repatriate him, sending minor leaguer Jonah Heim to the Rays to do so. He played 25 games for the Orioles, hitting .217 in only 60 at-bats.

Pearce joined the Toronto Blue Jays as a free agent prior to the 2017 season. He got off to a slow start, hitting just .167 in April, without a home run. He connected three times in his first two games in May but on May 15th went on the disabled list and missed a month of activity. He had managed to raise his batting average to .205 before being injured, then in June, he found his groove after his return, hitting .500 in 9 games. In July, it was his power that came back and on July 27th he hit a walk-off grand slam in the 10th inning off Liam Hendriks of the Oakland Athletics to give the Jays an 8-4 win and a four-game sweep. Incredibly, he repeated the feat three days later on July 30th, this time hitting his grand slam off former teammate Bud Norris of the Angels to give Toronto an 11-10 walk-off win. His blast capped the biggest 9th-inning comeback in team history, as the Jays were trailing 10-4 entering the bottom of the 9th. He was only the third player to hit two walk-off slams in a season, after Cy Williams, who had done it for the 1926 Philadelphia Phillies, and Jim Presley with the 1986 Seattle Mariners. He ended the season at .252 in 92 games, with 13 homers and 37 RBIs.

Pearce was back with the Jays at the start of the 2018 season. Like many of his teammates, he missed time in the early going, being on the DL from May 3rd to June 22nd with an oblique strain. On June 28th, he was hitting .291 in 26 games with 4 homers and 16 RBIs when he was traded to the Boston Red Sox in return for Class-A infielder Santiago Espinal, who would turn out to be an excellent pick-up for the Jays. The Sox were planning to use Steve mainly against left-handed pitchers. That was the case on August 2nd, when he started against CC Sabathia of the Yankees and had the first three-homer game of his career, leading Boston to a 15-7 win at Fenway Park. He also drove in six runs and had a chance at a fourth homer in the 8th, but the Yankees did not give him anything to swing at, walking him on five pitches. He hit .279 with 7 homers and 26 RBIs in 50 games for Boston, then had a tremendous postseason that he capped by winning the World Series Most Valuable Player Award. He went 4 for 12 as the Red Sox defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games in the 2018 World Series, all four hits going for extra bases, three of them homers, and driving in 8 runs. He also demonstrated unsuspected prowess as a defensive first baseman. He got more playing time than expected as Mitch Moreland, the left-handed hitting half of the first-base platoon, was hobbled by an injury, and then sat down when the Sox faced a barrage of lefties in the World Series.

He was slated to again share first base duties with Moreland in 2019 but had to start the season on the injured list due to discomfort in his left calf. He missed just a week, playing his first game on April 4th, but never found his groove as he hit just .103 in April and played his last game on May 31st, having hit .180 in 29 games, with 1 homer and 9 RBIs. He then went on the injured list with a lower back strain, and while he played a few minor league games on a rehabilitation assignment, he did not return to the big leagues that season. He became a free agent after the season and did not go to spring training with anyone in 2020. During the shutdown of the major leagues caused by the coronavirus pandemic in April 2020, he confirmed that he this was it for him: "You know what? It has been a good run. Right now, I am officially retired."

Sources: Altoona Curve site, 2004-2007 Baseball Almanacs, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Notable Achievements[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • Anthony Castrovince: "Pearce rides midseason trade to Series MVP",, October 28, 2018. [1]
  • Gabe Lacques: "Red Sox journeyman Steve Pearce adds new label: World Series MVP", USA Today, October 28, 2018. [2]

Related Sites[edit]