If some are still wondering why the Orioles didn't make a stronger play to retain Steve Pearce, count the first baseman/outfielder among those looking for answers.
Pearce, whose one-year, $4.75 million deal with the Tampa Bay Rays became official Thursday, spoke with Rays reporters Friday by conference call. On the call, he was asked why the Orioles didn't push to re-sign him.
"You know, I really don't know what happened there," Pearce said. "It's one of those things, you might have to ask one of those guys."
Yes, Pearce struggled to duplicate his breakout 2014 season, hitting .218/.289/.422 with 15 homers and 40 RBIs in 92 games last year. But he also played four different positions for the Orioles: both corner-outfield spots, first base and even second base for the first time in his career.
Pearce took to Twitter after his deal with the Rays was made official on Thursday night to thank the Orioles and their fans, and in speaking to the Rays media, he reiterated his love for the Orioles.
"I loved [manager] Buck [Showalter]," Pearce said. "We went to the ALCS and it was just an awesome time that I spent there. I loved it. I loved it. I love the coaches. I loved my teammates. I'm going to miss them the most. [They have] great fans."
Pearce was not only a favorite of Showalter, but he was popular inside the Orioles clubhouse because of his blue-collar work ethic. Before he earned regular playing time in 2014, he suffered from chronic wrist injuries because he took too many swings in the batting cage preparing for coming off the bench.
In April 2014, Pearce was designated for assignment, but when the Orioles needed to fill a hole at first base because Chris Davis went on the disabled list with an oblique strain, Pearce declined a waiver claim by the Toronto Blue Jays so he could become a free agent and re-sign with the Orioles.
He then enjoyed the best year of his career, hitting .293/.373/.556 with 21 homers and 49 RBIs in 102 games. His 5.9 wins above replacement in 2014 were the most on the team.
Pearce also volunteered to go on the disabled list with a left oblique strain last July when the Orioles faced a difficult roster crunch because right-hander Kevin Gausman had to come off the DL.
While Pearce said he will think of his time in Baltimore fondly, he said Friday he is ready to move on. The Lakeland, Fla., native will now play his home games about an hour away from his home town.
"I'm just thinking though, that chapter is that, that chapter in my life is closed and now I'm ready to start a new one with the Rays," Pearce said. "I can't say this enough. I'm so excited to be here. My family is excited and we just can't wait to get the ball rolling."