The Orioles are down to one roster decision: Steve Pearce or Conor Jackson for the reserve infielder-outfielder role.
Pearce and Jackson are down to one emotion: Anxiety.
“I need a Xanax prescription,” Jackson quipped.
Jackson, 30, has never been in this position before. Pearce, 29, has once, when he was with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Both described it as “nerve-racking.”
“I've played long enough in the game to know how it works,” Jackson said. “At this point, there’s nothing I can do except sit here and wait for that call in the office. It's either good news or bad news. It's a stressful situation, but it’s part of the game.”
Said Pearce: “It’s definitely tough. You want to be able to start making arrangements for the season. I have a family now and just for their sake, too. I think it is more nerve-racking for them than it is for me.”
What makes the call so difficult is both have had good springs; Pearce’s has been tremendous. Jackson may be a slightly better defender, but Pearce is a known commodity in the clubhouse. He played in 28 games for the Orioles last year, hit .254 with three homers.
This spring, Pearce has hit .341 with an incredible .818 slugging percentage. He leads the team in homers (6) and RBIs (17) while playing in 25 games. Jackson batted .302 with a .528 slugging percentage, three homers and six RBIs in 22 games. Other years, both may have made this team.
“It was kind of like two heavyweights battling against each other. We were going back and forth. He's had a pretty good spring,” Jackson said. “It's one of those situations where may the best man win it and go from there. But on the flip side, a lot happens during the season and I've been on teams where the 25-man roster starts one way and ends up a different way within six weeks. It's a funny game and things work differently.”
That certainly is the silver lining for the loser in the Pearce-Jackson battle. The Orioles used 52 players last year. They’ll likely use a bunch this year. That, Jackson said, was a primary reason he signed a minor league deal with the Orioles this winter.
“One of my main factors in choosing this team was the fact that they had so many guys and they used so many guys,” Jackson said. “And especially guys like me, kind of older guys, and they give them some opportunities.”