BALTIMORE — Buck Showalter worked for George Steinbrenner when he was with the Yankees and took on the job of building the Arizona Diamondback from the ground up.
But this season with the Baltimore Orioles has been the most trying of his 20 seasons as a major league manager. The Orioles have the worst record in baseball and are on pace to lose 115 games.
But Showalter broke into a smile when asked about Red Sox first baseman and outfielder Steve Pearce.
“He’s a baseball player, Showalter said. “That’s my biggest compliment, when I say they’re a baseball player.”
Pearce played 291 games for the Orioles from 2012-16, his time split up by occasional stints with other teams.
In 2014, Pearce hit .293 with 47 extra-base hits and 49 RBIs for a team that won the American League East and lost in the ALCS.
“This is where I got my shot,” said Pearce, who started at first base on Wednesday against the Orioles. “Buck was a good manager for me. Him having faith in me made me want to play extra hard. I loved it here.”
With Baltimore, Pearce played left field, right field, first base, and second base.
“I’d tell him the night before where he’d be playing and the next day he’d be on the field at 2 o’clock working on it,” Showalter said.
The Red Sox obtained Pearce from Toronto on June 28. He was 15 of 37 in his first 13 games with five doubles, a home run, and six RBIs. The Red Sox feel he’s a perfect fit.
Showalter is convinced Pearce will continue to pay off, too.
“Steve’s got no ego,” he said. “It’s all about contributing and winning. He’s just a winning player. That’s why he’s the type of guy that contending teams want on their club late in the year.
“Steve’s always been able to hit good pitching late in the game. To do that, you have to take your ego out of it. You’ve got to take what they’re giving you and you’ve got to hit the ball the other way and not get too big.”
As the trade deadline approaches, the Sox feel Pearce was what they needed to improve the bench. The righthanded hitter gives the Sox a better lineup against lefthanders and a capable pinch hitter late in games.
Manager Alex Cora has used Pearce mainly at first base and as the DH. But if the Red Sox get in a position where it’s needed, he could start games in the outfield.
“That guy can hit. He doesn’t draw attention to himself. He’s always in the cage or working defensively,” Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said. “Good guy to have around.”
Phillips not ready
The Red Sox have not given up on the idea that former All-Star Brandon Phillips can help them. But his progress has been stalled.
Phillips has played only 13 minor league games since being signed on June 27, none since Saturday with Triple A Pawtucket because of a pectoral strain.
The 37-year-old has hit .250 with a .663 OPS. The Sox still see him as being helpful off the bench.
“Well we were. We are, I guess,” president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said. “But he hasn’t even been able to play back-to-back nine-inning games [at second base] so far at this point.
“His conditioning is good. He’s shown us a lot of good things. . . . Just dealing with minor health issues. We haven’t been able to play him on a regular basis. But we’re still hopeful.”
Phillips, who has played 16 seasons in the majors, went unsigned in the offseason. He hit .285 in 144 games for the Braves and Angels last season.
Twins up next
The Sox open a four-game series against the Twins on Thursday night with Brian Johnson on the mound. The lefthander is 1-1 with a 2.22 ERA in five starts this season . . . Saturday will mark the two-week point since Eduardo Rodriguez severely sprained his right ankle. He has been in a walking boot since and will be examined again in the coming days. Cora and Dombrowski are optimistic that Rodriguez will return this season . . . Righthander Kyle Martin, who appeared in two games for the Sox last season, was released from his minor league contract to play in Japan. A ninth-round draft pick in 2013, Martin had a 3.33 ERA in 30 relief outings for Pawtucket.