As the season heads into its final two weeks, the Orioles know for sure that they’ll be without one of their veteran hitters.
The club placed Steve Pearce on the 60-day disabled list with a right flexor mass strain, ending his season and, potentially, his career with the Orioles.
Pearce is expected to have surgery soon, sidelining the 33-year-old pending free agent four to six months. It’s not Tommy John surgery, however, so Pearce should be able to be ready to play by spring training. Though he could be with another team by then.
“That’s something we’ll discuss when the year is over. Stevie knows how much we like him,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I’m sure other clubs will covet him too. You get first shot at it if you’re so inclined.”
Pearce, who was with the Orioles from 2012 to 2015, was acquired on Aug. 1 this year in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays for catching prospect Jonah Heim.
Pearce had hit .309 with 10 homers in 60 games for the Rays, and his right-handed bat seemed to fil a void for the Orioles with outfielder Joey Rickard (thumb) sidelined.
But Pearce struggled with forearm/elbow issues with the Orioles, hitting .217 with three homers in 20 games (70 plate appearances), before being shut down with the nagging injury. The Orioles were hoping that he could return if they made the playoffs, but ultimately that looked like it wouldn’t happen.
“I was talking to him in the outfield (Saturday). I understand (having surgery) from a professional standpoint. He wants to present himself in the offseason as a guy that’s ready to go in April,” Showalter said. “I wanted to make sure, in talking to the doctors and everything, that he wasn’t gonna be a guy capable of hitting and DH’ing on Oct. 15 if we’re fortunate enough to get that far. And they told me, “No that probably wouldn’t happen.’ He and the doctor and the agent decided to go forward with (surgery), and I would, too, if I was in his shoes.”
Moving Pearce to the 60-day DL freed up a 40-man roster space for 24-year-old first baseman Trey Mancini, one of the club’s top prospects. The Orioles wanted to add a right-handed bat and Mancini, who hit .282 with 20 homers between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk in 2015, was at the club’s extended camp in Sarasota, Fla., waiting for a potential promotion.
“I was actually out to dinner with my parents last night, so I got the call during dinner actually, so it was cool that they were there with me when I got it,” said Mancini, an 8th round pick out of the University of Notre Dame in 2013. “It’s a dream come true. It’s the reason I’ve been playing baseball since I was four years old, to one day make the major leagues.”
Mancini could spell Chris Davis at first base and be used as a bat off the bench. Mancini would have had to be placed on the 40-man roster in the offseason anyway to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. So this way he’ll get a taste of a pennant race.
“That’s one of the by-products of it, you get to expose him to the atmosphere. And I think we saw it some with Kim the first week or two (when he sat and didn’t play much),” Showalter said. “It was good for him. I think Trey could benefit from that, too. It was something I discussed with Dan (Duquette).”
Showalter said the club considered bringing up an outfielder, but Dariel Alvarez, the top possibility, left Sarasota to spend some time with his wife, who his dealing with pregnancy complications. Alvarez still could be called up before the season ends, Showalter sad.
In a couple other injury notes, Showalter said Rickard is “not progressing very well” in Sarasota. The outfielder was shut down when trying to take live batting practice Friday. He is not expected to return to the team for the regular season and may have to have surgery to repair the thumb ligaments if the pain persists, the manager said.
Darren O’Day (shoulder) was activated from the disabled list.
Mark Trumbo (back spasms) was back in the starting lineup after missing two days.