It was a gamble the team knew it was taking.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said the club was well aware of physical limitations Pearce had when the returned to Baltimore in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays.
“We reviewed the medical and we know Steve Pearce, we had him,” Duquette said. “Unfortunately, he had an injury with us that made things considerably worse than when he came. We had a good idea [of his health], but having said that, we expected that he would finish the season and help us in the playoffs.”
Pearce is scheduled take a train to New York on Wednesday, where he will have surgery to repair flexor tendons in his throwing arm, Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. Showalter said the recovery time is 4-6 months. Pearce is a free agent following this season, after signing a one-year, $4.75 million with the Rays in the offseason.
At the time of the deal, Pearce boasted an impressive .377/.476/.736 line in 63 plate appearances against lefties. He had 10 homers in 232 overall plate appearances with Tampa Bay.
But he played in just 25 games with the Orioles after they acquired him on Aug. 1. Pearce suffered a flexor mass strain throwing from right field in his third start with the Orioles. That injury kept Pearce out of the starting lineup for the next week and he didn’t return to the outfield for 16 days.
Pearce made nine more starts in the outfield until he re-aggravated the injury making a throw from left field to second base last Monday in Boston, eventually ending his season. Pearce finished hitting .217/.329/.400 in 70 plate appearances with the Orioles. His best game came on Aug. 28, when he had three hits and three RBIs in a 5-0 win at Yankee Stadium.
Pearce enjoyed the best years of his career in Baltimore from 2012-15, developing a reputation as a grinder who could play a variety of positions and often played through injury.
In 2013, Pearce went on the disabled list twice with wrist inflammation from taking excessive swings in the batting cage while preparing himself for a part-time role. Last year, when the team was facing a roster crunch, Pearce volunteered to go on the disabled list for a nagging oblique injury in order to free space.
When the Orioles reacquired Pearce, Showalter said Pearce arrived with some physical issues that the team had to get its arms around.
In Tampa Bay, Pearce did not play the outfield at all because of his arm issue, and he didn’t play second base after May 31, which limited to first base and DH duties for the rest of his time there. But the Orioles’ main need for Pearce was in the corner outfield spots, especially against left-handed pitching.
While disappointed that Pearce is out for the season, Duquette said it allows the team to get a closer look at first base prospect Trey Mancini, who batted .301/.383/.528 against left-handed pitching this season at Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. Mancini won’t get the number or kind of at bats that a veteran such as Pearce would have received, because he’s getting his first big league call-up and can only contribute defensively at first base.