It’s Celebrity Week here at Puckett’s Pond. On Monday, we brought you the story of Chris Herrmann, who may or may not be a Brazilian model. Yesterday, we wrote about Danny Lehmann, who actually is the nephew of TV’s Dog the Bounty Hunter. Today’s (almost) celebrity is Steve Pearce, who is either a baseball player in camp with the Twins or a New Mexico Congressman.
One Steve Pearce represents New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District. The other is a 28 year old, right-handed hitting first baseman and outfielder who will don jersey number 39 when Spring Training starts. No disrespect to New Mexico republicans (if any are reading), but I’m going to focus the rest of this article on the latter.
Steven Wayne Pearce played college ball for the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. He displayed some incredible power for South Carolina, mashing 42 homers in just 128 college games. Apparently, he also displayed an appreciation for the work of Ed Norton and Demi Moore (I know you were just itching to know who Pearce’s favorite actors were). That college resume was enough to earn quite a bit of draft interest for Pearce. The Red Sox selected him in the 10th round in 2004 (he did not sign), and the Pirates took him in the 8th round in 2005 (he did sign). But the Twins were actually the first team to draft Pearce – they selected him in the 45th round back in 2003. So, in a sense, this spring is nothing more than an extended homecoming for Pearce.
Long before he signed with the Twins, Pearce impressed the Pirates with his power. He socked 26 home runs in 2006, his first full season in the minor leagues. The next year, splitting time between AA and AAA, Pearce upped his homer total to 31. That season he also put up a .333/.394/.622 line, good enough to earn him the #89 spot on Baseball America’s top prospect list after the season. But those early eye-catching stats have yet to translate into MLB success. Pearce earned a September call-up in ’07, and he spent some time in each of the last five seasons with the Pirates, but he never earned a starting slot. The closest he came was in 2009, when he appeared in 60 games for the Bucs. For his MLB career, Pearce has a .232/.302/.366 line with nine homers and 52 RBI in 521 plate appearances.
Unfortunately, the last two seasons were derailed by injuries. Pearce suffered an ankle injury in May of 2010 and missed the rest of the season. Last year he missed time with a broken finger and a calf tear. Those were some pretty severe blows, because they came in his prime seasons, just when he might have had a chance to win an everyday spot with Pittsburgh.
On the surface, Pearce has a lot in common with fellow non-roster invitee Aaron Bates. Both will be 28 on Opening Day. Both were drafted by the Boston Red Sox, which means they might both have something to prove in the battle for the Mayor’s Cup. Both are right-handed hitters who started their minor league careers with some impressive power numbers but have not yet shown much hitting prowess in the Majors. Both went to college in Carolina (Pearce at South Carolina, and Bates at North Carolina State). And both are first basemen, which means that they will probably be competing with each other for playing time. The fact that they are so similar means that there might only be room for one in the upper levels of the Twins organization.
Is it just me, or does this have the potential to become one of the most epic rivalries in Twins Spring Training history?
Or maybe not. Pearce has some positional flexibility that might allow the Twins to fit both players in their plans. Though first base is his primary position, Pearce has played quite a few games in right field as well. And last year he got into 10 games as a third baseman. Even if he stays at first base, the Twins have some significant concerns at that position, given Justin Morneau‘s uncertain future. Pearce is not likely to win a roster spot out of Spring Training, but if he plays well he could win a starting job with the Red wings and be called up as an injury replacement this summer.
If that doesn’t work out, he could always run for Congress.
Puckett’s Pond has been writing about the Twins’ non-roster invitees all month. You can find the rest here.