Newest Red Sox Steve Pearce has one goal left — playing in the World Series
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When Steve Pearce joined up with the Red Sox last Friday in New York, it was without the usual uncertainty most players feel when they get traded during the season.
The 35-year-old first baseman and outfielder has played the last seven years of his career for teams in the American League East. It started with the Yankees in 2012 when he signed as a free agent.
He has since played for the Orioles, Rays, Blue Jays, and now the Red Sox. So no introductions were needed when he walked into the clubhouse.
“I’ve played against these guys so long that I’m familiar with them, even their personalities,” Pearce said. “It was an easy transition. I walked in and the guys were like, ‘Hey, Steve Pearce.’ I felt right at home.”
As the Sox start a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals on Friday night, Pearce is 4 for 13 with two doubles and an RBI in five games since he was obtained from the Blue Jays for a minor league infielder.
After releasing Hanley Ramirez in May, the Sox leaned heavily on Mitch Moreland to play first base. Pearce has provided manager Alex Cora with a trustworthy righthanded-hitting platoon partner for Moreland.
The trade accomplished three things. The Sox improved their lineup against lefthanded starters, strengthened the bench, and got Moreland more days off.
“We were running Mitch out there almost every day,” Cora said. “He needs days off like anybody else. Steve was a great pickup for us.”
Pearce has an .899 OPS against lefties this season with eight extra-base hits in 54 at-bats. His career OPS against lefties is .841. That’s why he’s always in demand.
“He’s one of the best righthanded hitters in baseball and he has all that experience in our division,” said Sox lefthander David Price, who has faced Pearce 31 times over the years. “He swings it well and can hit the fastball. I feel like I see him once a week sometimes.”
Pearce has faced 10 of the 12 pitchers on the Red Sox roster. Price, Chris Sale, and Eduardo Rodriguez are among the 10 pitchers Pearce has seen the most in his career.
“I look around this clubhouse and I know everybody,” he said.
Fenway Park is a special place for Pearce, too. But it’s not because he has played there 27 times over the years.
In 2004, Pearce was playing for Cotuit in the Cape Cod League when he and some teammates attended the Yankees-Red Sox game on July 24 and sat in the bleachers.
That, of course, was the day Jason Varitek fed Alex Rodriguez a double serving of catcher’s mitt, sparking one of the most memorable brawls between the teams.
“I’ll never forget that,” Pearce said. “What a game to go to.”
Pearce, who is from Lakeland, Fla., lives in Tampa with his wife, Jessica, and their two children. During the season, it’s all short-term rental apartments.
“I’ve learned my lesson with that,” he said. “My wife is very good at moving us around and when I get traded, she makes it work. Sometimes it gets to be a little much, to be honest.”
With so many transactions on his résumé, Pearce doesn’t plan very far ahead.
“My friends or family want to come see me play and buy tickets in advance. I’m always like, ‘Don’t do that. I don’t know what will happen,’ ” Pearce said. “If you want to come see, spend the extra $200 and just make it happen. I’ve ruined so many trips for people over my career.”
The 2012 season was particularly chaotic.
Pearce signed with the Minnesota Twins as a free agent after spending parts of five seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, his original team.
The Twins released Pearce at the end of spring training and he signed with the Yankees two days later.
The Orioles purchased him from the Yankees on June 2. When Baltimore put Pearce on waivers, the Astros claimed him on July 28.
The Yankees then purchased Pearce from the Astros on Aug. 27. Then on Sept. 29, Baltimore purchased Pearce.
In all, Pearce played 61 games for four teams. But it did work out in the long run. The Orioles kept Pearce and he had an .821 OPS from 2013-15. He flourished under manager Buck Showalter.
Pearce went to the playoffs with Baltimore in 2014 and fell short of the World Series when the Royals eliminated the Orioles in the ALCS.
The only real goal he has left is playing in the Series.
“I know it would be awesome to do something like that in Boston,” Pearce said. “That would be the way I want to go out.”
Pearce has started to think about a life beyond baseball. He wants to end his playing career when he decides, not somebody else.
“I want to play as long as my body allows me to,” Pearce said. “I want to go out on my own terms and not have the jersey taken away from me. I’ve been able to fit some roles with good teams and be the same guy no matter where I’ve been. But I know it’ll end at some point.
“I’ve been playing this game 30 years. Maybe there’s something else out there for me. I pick at it. But right now, I’m with the Red Sox and playing in the World Series with them would be the ultimate.”