Steve Pearce has been traded four times, released twice, and claimed off waivers on two other occasions during his 15 seasons in professional baseball. The game has humbled him more times than he would care to count.
But what’s going on now is another level of being reminded how quickly everything can change.
Pearce was selected the Most Valuable Player of the World Series last fall after hitting three home runs and driving in eight runs in five games against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
He was outstanding at first base, too, contorting his stout frame into positions he didn’t know he was capable of to make crucial plays.
Major League Baseball gave Pearce a red Chevrolet Silverado and the Red Sox came through with a new $6.2 million contract two weeks later.
The lifelong Patriots fan even got to meet Tom Brady and Bill Belichick along the way.
“Now I feel like smashing every bat I have,” Pearce said Monday before the Red Sox opened a three-game series against Oakland with a 9-4 win.
The guy who hit two home runs and drove in three runs in Game 5 at Dodger Stadium had one extra-base hit and one RBI in 43 plate appearances through Sunday.
Pearce is 4 of 39 with 17 strikeouts and, with runners in scoring position, is 0 for 10 with five strikeouts.
His career has been built on hitting lefthanders, but Pearce is 2 for 16 against them with nine strikeouts.
It gets worse. His .295 OPS is the fifth lowest in baseball among players with at least 40 plate appearances. Two of the players below Pearce were sent to the minors and another is on the injured list.
“Baseball is pointing at me and laughing right now,” Pearce said.
The slump has its roots in spring training. The Sox were cognizant of Pearce’s history of early-season injuries and eased him into playing. But he still strained his left calf March 17 after only seven games and 17 at-bats.
Pearce, 36, was on the injured list to start the season then returned April 4 after spending six days in extended spring training at the team complex in Florida, taking swings against prospects not deemed ready for even low A ball.
“When I first came back, the game was just too fast for me,” Pearce said. “I wasn’t ready. I was physically ready, but I wasn’t seeing the baseball. Now I’m starting to see the baseball and mechanically I’m not in the right place.
“I’m trying to do too much and, at the same time, I’m trying to relax. I’ve tried so many things. It feels like I’m trying to get four hits in one at-bat. I’ve come up in big situations and it feels like, ‘OK, now I’m going to get it done.’ But I haven’t. I miss my pitch.”
Pearce said he felt ready to go two days before the Sox activated him off the injured list. He was eager to come back.
“I was doing great,” Pearce said. “Then the next day I picked up a bat and it did not feel right in my hands. It was literally the day before I was called up and I’ve been struggling to find it ever since.”
The Sox need Pearce to be productive. He hit third, fourth, or fifth in the lineup 34 times last season after the Sox acquired him from the Toronto Blue Jays and had a .901 OPS with the Sox.
Whether it was as a first baseman, designated hitter, or pinch hitter, Pearce was a player Alex Cora found plenty of uses for.
Cora is putting Pearce in the same spots he did last season. But it hasn’t worked.
Pearce isn’t responsible for the Sox being off to a poor start. But he’s part of the problem.
“He’s off mechanically. His hands, his feet, everything. He’s just fighting it right now,” Cora said. “He’s been working hard the last week, looking at video from last year.
“You see where we’re at and people start trying to do too much. It should be the other way around. Don’t try to do too much. Just play the part. Just contribute.
“That’s a message for everybody. It hasn’t been great for three weeks. We get it; we understand. But at the same, we know we’re very talented, we have a good team . . . Play your part. Don’t try and be the hero and the MVP of the World Series. Just be you.”
Pearce knows what’s coming if he doesn’t, another transaction. He sees Michael Chavis on the roster and understands the Red Sox could turn to him to platoon with Mitch Moreland. That Chavis started at first base on Monday was a sign the Red Sox would be comfortable with that.
The Sox won’t ride with a roster that doesn’t work into June. They can’t afford to wait.
“I’ve been humbled,” Pearce said. “I need to show them something.”