Pearce Working on Defense

Steven Pearce is seeing ground balls in his sleep.

After splitting time between Class A affiliates Hickory and Lynchburg last season, the first baseman registered a total of 16 miscues in the field. So when the 23-year-old product out of the University of South Carolina completed the regular season, he immediately went to the Pirates' Instructional League in Bradenton, Fla., to sharpen his defensive skills.

"I was taking a lot of ground balls," Pearce said. "My defense was a little shaky last year. I was making to many mental mistakes out in the field. So I was getting up at 8 a.m. every morning, doing what I needed to do and taking ground ball after ground ball. I was working on my footwork and getting the ball over to second. It was work, but it's something I have to do to improve."

Selected by Pittsburgh in the eighth round of the 2005 first-year player draft, Pearce is all about scaling the Pirates' farm system with a cooler glove and power production at the plate.

"I always want to improve," Pearce said. "It's all about how you prepare yourself. Compared to my first year of professional baseball to this year, I don't want to say I was ignorant, but I really didn't know about preparing myself. It's something I know now and something I will keep with me.

"You have to have a better understanding of the game. I think I know a little bit more and that's going to help me."

The 5-foot-11, 198-pound righthanded hitter hit combined to hit .273 (133-for-488) in 131 games split between Hickory and Lynchburg. Pearce hit 40 doubles, 26 home runs, 98 RBI and posted a .876 on-base-plus percentage between the two Class A ballclubs.

"I'm pretty happy with the way I played," Pearce said. "It was a lot of hard work. I know I have to continue to work hard, so I can continue playing and hopefully get to the next level."

In 41 games with the Crawdads, Pearce batted .288 (46-for-160) with 13 doubles, 12 home runs and 38 RBI. With the Hillcats, he supplied a .265 batting average (87-for-328) with 48 runs scored, 27 doubles, 14 long balls and 60 plated runs in 90 games.

Considering the Pirates have been in a desperate search for a homegrown first baseman with power, Pearce isn't worried about possibly being under the microscope of many this upcoming season.

"I haven't even thought about it," he said. "It's nice to be noticed, but it's not something you dwell on. How ever it works out, it works out."

Last year, with shortseason Class A Williamsport, Pearce batted .301 (82-for-272) with 48 runs scored, 26 doubles, seven home runs and 52 RBI. Pearce walked 35 times and struck out another 43.

It was after that first season when he realized improvement is everything.

"The biggest thing for me was adjusting to the speed of the game," the 23-year-old said. "Each level, everyone is better and the talent is there. You have to learn to develop along with the physicalness and speed at each level.

"At first it was hard to adjust to the wooden bats from the aluminum. But as time went on you learn to go with the transition."

With spring training quickly approaching, Pearce has his sights set on joining the Curve in Class AA Altoona.

"I'm all about getting stronger in the offseason," Pearce said. "To compete for the starting spot at first base with Double-A, I have to stay in shape. I'm constantly working out and running to do so."

Pearce is also learning that there really isn't much of a down time during the offseason.

"People are always asking me and wondering why I work out all the time," he said. "I'm running and going to the cages every day. I have to keep going and not lose anything. I constantly have to keep working on things to keep a job. There really isn't an offseason."

While his efforts are focused on starting the season with Altoona next spring, Pearce understands his performance in spring training will dictate where he'll be stationed come next April.

"I'm anxious to get started," Pearce said. "I want to prove that I belong on the Double-A team."

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