NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Steve Pearce knows all too well how heated the rivalries can get in the American League East, but he'll have a different perspective of the bitter feelings in 2017.Pearce made the jump from Baltimore to Toronto earlier this week when he signed a two-year deal worth
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Steve Pearce knows all too well how heated the rivalries can get in the American League East, but he'll have a different perspective of the bitter feelings in 2017.
Pearce made the jump from Baltimore to Toronto earlier this week when he signed a two-year deal worth $12.5 million. There's no love loss between those two organizations, with feuds dating back to 2012 and the clash became even more intense during this year's AL Wild Card Game.
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Switching sides isn't a new concept for Pearce, who has played for five organizations during his 10-year career. He appeared in more games for the Orioles than anyone else, but with stints on the Yankees and Rays, he's experienced this kind of transition before.
"That's just an AL East thing," Pearce said. "We had that rivalry with Tampa, we had it with New York, we had it with Boston and Toronto. It's a tough division. You can't be a .500 team and compete in that division. You have to be the best and you have to bring it every night. Sometimes when you're playing so hard, there's a feud. There's a lot of emotions going on in games like that, and it's just a part of baseball."
Pearce is expected to platoon at first base with Justin Smoak, and he could see some playing time in left field. He also has the ability to play second base, and while he likely won't start there very often, Pearce's versatile skill set was one of the things that appealed to Toronto.
The 33-year-old has posted strong numbers against left-handed pitching, but has struggled to stay healthy. He has been on the disabled list eight times in 10 years and has played more than 100 games in a season just once. It was another injury that brought a premature end to his 2016 season and forced him to miss the AL Wild Card Game.
Pearce underwent surgery on his right forearm in September to repair his flexor mass. He explained on Wednesday morning that there wasn't one specific play that caused the damage, but wear and tear over time. When the soreness began to increase as the year went along, he knew something had to be done.
"I saw the surgeon [Tuesday] and he was very pleased," Pearce said. "My trainers have actually been pleased from Day 1 when I just started my rehab. Just going there as far as strength wise and all of that. So I'm getting nothing but positive feedback from those guys. And I'm very optimistic I'm going to be ready from Spring Training, and we'll just take it from there."
Pearce began last season with Tampa Bay, but was later traded to Baltimore around the non-waiver Trade Deadline. The Rays expressed some interest in bringing Pearce back, but it's believed the guaranteed second year that Toronto offered was enough to secure the deal.
The Florida native is a career .254/.333/.441 hitter and is coming off a season in which he hit .288 with a strong .867 OPS in 85 games. Toronto will hope for more of that in 2017, and Pearce is looking forward to showing fans north of the border what he can bring to the table.
"I'm going to compete, I'm going to play as hard as I can," Pearce said. "I'm going to give my team everything I have and [the fans] are going to see that from me day in and day out. When I see little kids and fans, I want them to know, 'That's Steve Pearce. He's a gritty player. He plays hard every single play.' And I want kids to look up to me and play like that."
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.