Bucs prospect Pearce moving quickly

Prospect Pearce moving quickly

SAN FRANCISCO -- Steven Pearce tries to use the word "shocked" to describe his feelings over being selected to play Sunday in the 2007 All-Star Futures Game at AT&T Park.

His answer didn't go over well. Reminded that his .319 average, 20 homers and 65 RBIs for the Double-A Altoona Curve reflect a Pirates prospect who has decidedly All-Star credentials, Pearce amends his response.

"Well, I was under the radar, pretty much," he says. "So, to get picked is an honor, you know. I was like, 'Wow, I get picked to play in the Futures Game.' It was a good time."

Not as good as it could be if Pearce, an undersized first baseman with plenty of pop in his bat, continues his joyride through the Pirates farm system. After signing as an eighth-round pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, he's been playing his way toward the Majors.

It was his destination then; it's his destination now.

"I really didn't have a timetable," he says. "I can't say I did. But I know my talent. I know what I'm capable of doing. So I'm hoping it's the near future, not eight or nine years in the Minor Leagues."

Like the other ballplayers in the Futures Game, Pearce has no reason to think his ascent to the big leagues will be a long journey. He has no reason to think it'll be an easy journey, either. For each step along the way is littered with obstacles, including competitors who'll want to supplant Pearce as the next Pirates prospect to watch.

He knows that his success has already pushed someone else below him in the pecking order. Triple-A is within his reach, and then, well ... "I'm ahead of schedule," says the 24-year-old Pearce, who leads the Eastern League in slugging percentage [.661]. "I'm not taking it one level at a time. I'm a level up from where I should be, so everything is going on the right track."

To stay on track, he says, he'll need to show more consistency. He sees that as the missing link in his development, although his success the past two seasons suggests more consistency than inconsistency.

He's had no long funks -- not yet. He's had ups and downs, as any ballplayer would have, but nothing that has raised major questions about where his game is.

Still, Double-A ball is a long way from the Major Leagues, he says. As heady as playing in a showcase event like the Futures Game might be, Pearce doesn't appear to be letting the spotlight overwhelm him. He sees it as just another challenge, another chance to put his talent in front of others to judge.

Besides, it's baseball, and how can that be bad?

"I love it," Pearce says. "I love baseball; it's fun. It's the greatest sport in the world, and I get to play it every day. It beats sitting behind a desk or in a cubicle."

Asked if that love includes those long bus rides that go with playing in the Minors, he gives it some thought.

"No, they stink," says Pearce, shaking his head. "When you get to come to a place like this, you come to appreciate it. But it's something that every young ballplayer has to go through. It's almost tradition."

Justice B. Hill is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.