09/01/07 7:25 PM ET
Pearce gets his shot in the Majors
Bucs prospect speeds through Minors, gets the start Saturday
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
Admittedly still trying to wear off the shock of the past 24 hours, Pearce walked into the visiting clubhouse at Miller Park on Saturday more concerned with making sure he was in the right place than stopping to glance at the bulletin board as he walked by.
That's when Matt Kata stepped in. He told Pearce to take a step back and go check out the posted lineup card. Pearce walked over and found his name scribbled in as the sixth-hole hitter with the RF notation flanking his name.
"I was kind of surprised it was in the outfield," Pearce said. "But we'll go from there. It's been a blast these last 24 hours."
That blast started on Friday night, when Triple-A Indianapolis manager Trent Jewitt called Pearce into his office and informed the 24-year-old that he was among the first group of September callups the organization made.
Pearce's first phone call then went to his younger brother, Chad, an outfielder and football player at Webber University who, as Pearce put it, has always tried to outdo his older brother when it came to playing sports. Chad may have a hard time accomplishing that now.
"He's not one to always show emotion and get excited," Pearce said, smiling. "I thought, 'If this doesn't get him pumped, then I don't know what will.' So I told him yesterday, and to hear the reaction out of his mouth felt good."
What feels good for Pearce isn't simply the fact that he was making his Major League debut on Saturday, likely in front of a near sellout crowd in Milwaukee. What is so intriguing about his story is that not even the most outlandish predictions prior to the season would have had Pearce among the prospects with an outside shot at joining the big league club as a September callup. Not this year at least.
An eighth-round selection in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, Pearce, who wasn't a non-roster Spring Training invitee this year, began the season playing first base at high Class A Lynchburg. Pearce had begun to make waves in the organization after leading all Pirates farmhands with 26 homers and 98 RBIs in 2006, but he stumbled out of the gate with an 0-for-5, three-strikeout game to begin this season.
"I don't remember the weather, but I do remember the day," Pearce recalled. "It wasn't a very good offensive day."
The rest could be characterized as a blur. After earning Carolina League Player of the Month honors in April, Pearce joined the Double-A Altoona team. His home run in his first start for Altoona would be the first of 14 he would hit for the Curve in 81 games.
Pearce, a product of the University of South Carolina, then took his .334 Double-A batting average and July Eastern League Player of the Month honors with him to Indianapolis, where on July 29, he made the jump to the Triple-A Minor League rung.
And he didn't slow down. Nine doubles and six more home runs in 34 games to complement his .320 average was his emphatic answer to that new challenge. Then came Friday night's news, to which Pearce responded: "I think my bat's the thing that got me here."
It may be hard for anyone to beat that understatement the rest of the month.
"He's done more than just perform at every level he's been at this year," manager Jim Tracy said. "He played at Triple-A like he belonged there all year. He can hit. There's no getting around that fact."
A first baseman by trade, Pearce just recently began taking balls in the outfield. With the Pirates having Adam LaRoche pegged as the starting first baseman of the future, the organization wanted to improve Pearce's versatility. He'll be making a start in that new position, despite estimating that he played just 10 games in right field for the Indians.
"It's getting a little easier every day," Pearce said of the position. "I haven't mastered it yet, but it's definitely been a good process. And now it looks like I am getting thrown to the wolves."
Having Pearce as an option in right field allows Tracy to spot Xavier Nady days to rest his bothersome left hamstring, as well as give the Pirates manager a chance to get Jason Bay a few days off in the season's final month.
It will also allow the Pirates to take a look at a prospect whose impending arrival has been anticipated by Bucs fans.
"I want to see the kid," Tracy said. "When you start out at high A Lynchburg and find yourself playing in the big leagues, I'd have to say that whatever your goals were at the start of the season, you've probably gone beyond whatever those goals were."
Well, Pearce revisited those goals on Saturday, admitting that even he erred on the side of realist rather than optimist at the season's start.
"I wanted to prove to everyone that I could play," said Pearce, who now becomes the first Pirate since catcher Yamid Hadd to move from high Class A ball to the Majors during a season. "I wanted to get into the upper levels. I didn't really imagine the big leagues. I wanted to at least end the year in Double-A or Triple-A.
"I'm really excited. To tell you the truth, I'm not nervous. I'm more anxious than anything."
He's not the only one.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.