Steve Pearce deserved his opportunity much sooner, but at least he's finally getting one from the Pirates.
It's now up to Pearce to prove to the organization he can get the job done as the everyday first baseman.
There's no doubt here that he can.
Mirror file photo by J.D.?Cavrich
Steve Pearce proved to be one of the best players in Curve history in 2007.
Until this past week, Pearce, one of the best players in Curve history, had been the forgotten man in the Pirate organization. Why? Because the Bucs decided it was better to waste everyone's time and a lot of money by continuing to run mediocre, overpaid Adam LaRoche out to first every day.
With LaRoche now gone, traded to the Red Sox, the Pirates are giving Pearce a shot. He'll be in the lineup every day for the foreseeable future, and most importantly, it will be at his natural position and not as part of some outfield experiment.
Pearce looked outstanding at first base with the Curve in 2007, so it's difficult to understand why some in the organization have questioned his defense. When he made a superb diving stop in Thursday's game, the TV announcers sounded shocked that he even knows how to play defense.
"I take pride in my defense," Pearce, who grew up playing shortstop, said on Friday's telecast. "I am not a bad defensive first baseman."
He will hold his own defensively, but Pearce must prove he can hit consistently to keep his job beyond the next few weeks.
He's off to a good start.
Pearce went 4-for-11 with two doubles in his first three starts. He has shown good patience, drawing two walks and working deep counts nearly every time up.
He drilled a 3-2 fastball to the base of the wall in center for a double Saturday night, the kind of power he hasn't shown much of during his sporadic playing time in the majors.
Pearce also has looked bad a few times on hanging curveballs, swinging early and showing he still has a ways to go prove he can handle big league offspeed stuff.
The only way to know if he can is to play him every day, let him see different pitchers and get in a rhythm. He has never been afforded that luxury before by the Pirates, who quickly pigeonholed Pearce into a bench role as soon as he reached the majors.
It's unfair to judge any hitter when he's getting only five at-bats per week. Someone like Pearce has played every day for his entire life, and it's rare when a young player can make a niche for himself as a backup in the majors.
The Pirates talk about winning with their own prospects. Well, Pearce is one, so they need to find out about him. He has hit at every level, and it's a good bet he will hit in the big leagues, too.
Will Pearce ever be a star? Probably not. But he's good enough to play every day for the Pirates.
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and firstname.lastname@example.org.