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Orioles: Pearce acclimating to new city, new team

BALTIMORE - On June 1, Steve Pearce was playing for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, the New York Yankees' Class AAA affiliate, in a game against the Baltimore Orioles' top affiliate, the Norfolk Tides.

The next day, the 29-year-old became a member of that opposing organization, as he was traded to the Orioles for cash.

Most important for the one-time highly regarded prospect, who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2007-11, he was returning to the majors.

"I was excited, shocked," Pearce said. "I did not know the Orioles had any interest. ... [I was] excited to get some playing time and, you know, come over to a winning team. I mean, it's great here. I couldn't ask for more."

Pearce jumped right into the starting lineup his first game for the Orioles, on the road against Tampa Bay, playing right field. He went 1 for 4, singling for his first American League hit.

The Pirates' eighth-round draft pick in 2005, Pearce was rated as the organization's No. 3 prospect - and the No. 89 prospect in all of baseball - by Baseball America in 2007.

He played in 185 games over five seasons for Pittsburgh, batting .232 with nine homers and 32 RBIs. He signed with the Minnesota Twins last offseason but was cut during spring training. That's when the Yankees picked him up.

Prior to being traded to Baltimore, Pearce had been on a tear in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, hitting .321 on the season with 11 home runs and 30 RBIs. He then batted .320 over his first seven games for the Orioles.

"I feel like it continued over," Pearce said. "I kind of hit a little bump in the road [after that] but, you know, it's baseball. Every hitter goes through it. [I'm] just trying to battle my way out of it and get back to my comfort zone and contribute to what's going on here."

Pearce has gotten ample playing time with three of the four outfielders from the Orioles' Opening Day roster (Nick Markakis, Nolan Reimold and Endy Chavez) on the disabled list. In 19 games with the Orioles before Tuesday night's game in Seattle, Pearce is hitting .241 with two home runs and 11 RBIs.

"Sometimes people go down and that's your time to shine," Pearce said. "You know, sometimes that's the only chance you'll get."

When Pearce joined the Orioles, there was one familiar face on the team. Bench coach John Russell managed the Pirates from 2008-10.

"When we got him [in Pittsburgh], he was young and he kind of flew through the minor-league system, never really had a lot of experience," Russell said. "I think as he developed he started to get a little bit more patient, a little bit more under control, and started to learn what he was capable of doing."

Russell has seen a lot of Pearce over the years, and said he can tell the difference between Pearce's good and bad games.

"He's good when he gets aggressive, gets a good pitch to hit and he drives it," Russell said. "The games he's done very well here, that's what he's done. The games he's struggled a little bit, it seems like he is trying to do it too right. ... As far as, 'I don't want to make an out, I want to put the ball in play,' and he gets away from what he does best. He's got a very strong bat and is just aggressive and quick, and when he does that, he can drive the ball."

Pearce's biggest achievement with the Orioles so far was a five-RBI game against the Pirates June 14, when he went 2 for 4 with a two-run double and a three-run homer.

"It felt good to contribute," he said.

Pearce has played 15 games in left field and six in right for the Orioles. The outfield is not his natural position, however, as 69 of his 85 games for Pittsburgh from 2009-11 were at first base.

"My comfort zone was always first base, that's where I came up [and] played college, short season, High-A, Double-A, Low-A, Triple-A, I always came up playing first base, so it's my natural position," Pearce said. "But I've played a lot of outfield, I'm getting used to it, and I'm excited to be out there. Every day I play I get more comfortable on the field."

Pearce said that he is adjusting well to his new surroundings and appreciates what he has seen from the fans.

"We get great attendance and they're supporting us," Pearce said. "It's just awesome walking around the city and seeing a lot of people with Orioles shirts on. So they're supporting us, they want to win, and we're giving them what they want."

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