The Orioles held their annual holiday party for kids at Arundel Mills. (Baltimore Sun video)
Manager Buck Showalter has often talked about how the Orioles might not be able to offer the largest or longest contracts, but they can counteract that by offering opportunity.
And there probably isn't an Orioles player who took greater advantage of the opportunity given to him last season than first baseman-outfielder Steve Pearce.
Pearce entered spring training competing for a roster spot, and for the first few weeks of the season his role was limited to being an occasional outfielder and designated hitter against left-handed pitchers.
When starting first baseman Chris Davis was sidelined with an oblique injury in April, the Orioles had just designated Pearce for assignment, but they were able to bring him back after he refused a waiver claim from the Toronto Blue Jays, became a free agent and re-signed.
He went on to enjoy his best major league season, hitting .293/.373/.456 with a career-high 21 home runs and 49 RBIs. He filled in at first base while Davis was injured and then again in September and October while Davis served a 25-game suspension for unauthorized use of Adderall.
Now, Pearce's challenge is duplicating his success from last season.
"[I was] getting to play every day," Pearce said Tuesday, when he attended the Orioles' annual holiday party for kids. "I was able to not stress as much because I was out there every day. Just finding that comfort zone. That's what it's about. The opportunity was finally there. My role in the past has always been spelling somebody [who plays] every now and then. I wasn't able to get into a groove and be as consistent. ... If you get more comfortable, you can be more consistent."
Showalter said during last week's winter meetings that if the season started now, Pearce likely would be the team's starting right fielder, replacing Nick Markakis. Showalter also said he'd like to try Pearce out at third base, a position he hasn't played at the major league level since 2011.
"Not yet," Pearce said when asked if Showalter has told him he will be in right field. "But I guess with the guys that we lost that I'd be the next in line. I'm ready for it, right field, left field, first base, doesn't matter, wherever he puts me in the lineup."
While his role might not be clearly defined, Pearce has some job security for the first time in several years. The past few seasons, he has been fighting for a roster spot in spring training and battling for playing time during the season.
"I'm still working just as hard as always, [but it is] less stressful, as far as getting an apartment ready for spring training, and I have a place in Baltimore," Pearce said. "But I'm still working just as hard if not harder than I've ever worked to get ready for the season.
"I'm not going to go up there and try and do too much," Pearce said. "I'm just going to try and play my game. I didn't try to do too much last year. I'm going to do everything I can to get ready."
A couple other items of note:
** The Orioles are continuing their search for a hitting coach. They had zeroed in on former Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, but he is no longer a candidate for the job. Showalter said Tuesday that it has been difficult finding candidates who are willing to give the time commitment that the position demands.
** Orioles Hall of Famer and current MASN analyst Jim Palmer joined Twitter this week. His handle is @Jim22Palmer.