BRADENTON, Fla. -- All spring, Steve Pearce has reiterated his renewed focus to rediscover the swing and the form that carried him from Class A to the Majors in a six-month span two years ago.

For the time being, that will be a task Pearce will have to complete in Triple-A.

He was one of three players sent to Minor League camp on Saturday morning. Pearce and catcher Robinzon Diaz were optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. Infielder Anderson Machado was reassigned to Minor League camp. Machado is expected to provide further infield depth in Indianapolis, while Pearce and Diaz will be starters.

"I'm just going to go down and take it serious," Pearce said, just before leaving McKechnie Field on Saturday morning. "It's hard right now. I wouldn't get the at-bats if I were to make the team. And without constant at-bats, I don't think I can be the best I can be. I need the at-bats to find a sort of comfort zone and then let the rest play out."

The only role available for Pearce at the Major League level would have been as a bench player and backup right fielder and first baseman. In other words, an opportunity for consistent at-bats would not have been available.

The Pirates saw such a role as potentially detrimental to Pearce's development.

"If we felt like his ceiling was as a bench player, then he makes the club," general manager Neal Huntington said. "But we still anticipate and still work to get more out of Steve than just a role player. He may settle into that role somewhere down the road, but we don't want to do that right now."

After splitting time between first and right last season, Pearce will be used primarily as a first baseman in Indianapolis. He will still make periodic starts in right.

The reasoning behind this is pretty clear. The Pirates have a bevy of young outfield talent already in the Majors or close to it. That said, Pearce's best chance at being a long-term player in this organization will be at first, especially with Adam LaRoche only under contract through 2009.

Pearce was slowed by a calf injury during the early part of Grapefruit League action, and finished with seven hits in 33 at-bats. He had four doubles and three RBIs. Still, he earned management's approval for improvements in his approach at the plate and in his defense.

"In Steve's case, he's made some great strides this spring," Huntington said. "He has worked hard. The consistency of his work has been quality. He's worked well with Perry Hill and has made some great strides at first base. He still has some work to do, but he's made great strides."

The Pirates signed Machado to a Minor League deal this winter with the intention of carrying him as an infield backup option in Triple-A this year. He went 4-for-17 this spring.