Pearce gives Blue Jays options in field

Veteran focusing on getting healthy by Opening Day

Pearce gives Blue Jays options in field

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Steve Pearce has spent the last four seasons in the American League East, playing for the Orioles and Rays. So he saw a lot of the Blue Jays. And he liked what he saw.

"They were a tough team," he said Monday after the Blue Jays completed their workout. "You had to bring it against them every night. They knew it. They're a cocky team. They're fun to play against."

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Now Pearce, 33, is getting to know the Blue Jays as a teammate after signing with them as a free agent. So far, so good. "Coming into the locker room, getting to know them personally, it's a good bunch of guys," he said.

The only snag has been that he's been somewhat limited following elbow surgery last September.

Still, he's been hitting, and manager John Gibbons said he's on track to not only appear in some Grapefruit League games but to be ready to go by Opening Day.

"He's doing good," Gibbons said. "So now it's just a matter of getting the arm strength so we can get him out in left field."

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There had been some speculation when Pearce signed that he'd platoon at first with switch-hitting Justin Smoak after posting a 1.039 OPS against left-handed pitching last season. However, general manager Ross Atkins said recently he hopes Pearce will become the everyday left fielder.

Pearce said he doesn't care where he plays and is just focusing on being ready to go when the season starts. His first exhibition appearances are likely to be as a designated hitter. "What we're doing now is easing into it," he said. "Day by day. [Opening Day] is what we're planning for. It's what we're going for right now. And it's ahead of schedule."

Paul Hagen is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.