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Pearce on track for March 19 debut in field

Versatile 1B/DH progressing in rehab from elbow surgery
Special to MLB.com

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Blue Jays first baseman/designated hitter Steve Pearce, who is recovering from September elbow surgery, is on track to make his debut in the field on March 19 against the Pirates, manager John Gibbons said on Friday.

Pearce started for the second consecutive game in Toronto's 6-2 victory over the Tigers in his native Lakeland. He doubled down the left-field line off Jordan Zimmermann in the first inning and walked once in four plate appearances at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium.

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LAKELAND, Fla. -- Blue Jays first baseman/designated hitter Steve Pearce, who is recovering from September elbow surgery, is on track to make his debut in the field on March 19 against the Pirates, manager John Gibbons said on Friday.

Pearce started for the second consecutive game in Toronto's 6-2 victory over the Tigers in his native Lakeland. He doubled down the left-field line off Jordan Zimmermann in the first inning and walked once in four plate appearances at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium.

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The 33-year-old Pearce, who inked a two-year, $12.5 million deal with Toronto in the offseason after spending 2016 with the Rays and Orioles, has been limited to designated-hitter duties in Grapefruit League play while easing back from the procedure to repair the flexor tendons in his right elbow.

Pearce will likely make his initial start at first base before working into the outfield when his arm is ready. He is expected to be fully healthy by Opening Day on April 3 at Baltimore.

"He's doing good, he's swinging good," Gibbons said. "I think he's played two or three games. He can hit. He's the home boy right here [in] Lakeland."

Video: TB@TOR: Pearce lines an RBI single to center field

Worth noting

• Gibbons said he didn't have a chance to watch Team Dominican Republic's 9-2 rout of Team Canada in Thursday night's Pool C first-round opener in the World Baseball Classic. But he quickly caught word of Jose Bautista's performance on Friday morning.

Bautista finished with four RBIs in the victory, slugging a mammoth three-run homer off reliever Dustin Molleken in the sixth inning.

"Jose was smoking down here in these games," Gibbons said of the 36-year-old Toronto slugger, who departed camp for the Classic hitting .563 with two homers in Grapefruit League play.

"He's on a mission. He always is, but he's definitely on a mission. I've said before, he's easily as motivated as any guy I've ever been around. That's just the way he's wired. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He always has. I would expect him to have a huge year, to be honest with you."

Video: Must C Crushed: Bautista mashes a homer to left

• Jake Elmore had a duck-and-cover moment in the second. During his at-bat against Zimmermann, the bat slipped out of his hands and helicoptered down the third-base line before bouncing into umpire Jerry Layne. No one was injured on the play, and Elmore finished the plate appearance by singling home Darrell Ceciliani from third.

Jeff Odom is a contributor to MLB.com.

Toronto Blue Jays, Steve Pearce