ST. PETERSBURG — Steve Pearce played against the Rays enough over the last few years to grasp how the key to their success has been pitching and defense. And now he is incredibly eager to be integral part of their latest attempt to boost their offense.
"It's always been a tough team," Pearce said. "They grind out at-bats. They play all the way through the ninth innings. It was always a tough grind.
"And now they're adding offense. They've always had the pitching. It's going to be quite a group. I'm so excited. I can't wait."
In adding Pearce, on a one-year, $4.75 million deal, and Corey Dickerson, in a trade with the Rockies for Jake McGee this week, after acquiring Brad Miller and Logan Morrison previously, Rays officials are confident they have significantly improved a team that ranked 14th in the American League in runs and routinely wasted stellar pitching performances.
"If you look at the types of lineups that we can run out … versus right-handed pitching, versus left-handed pitching, it's a lot more dynamic," baseball operations president Matt Silverman said. "There's a lot more power. It's a more intimidating lineup than we've had in the past, and that was one of the goals this offseason, to enhance the offensive side while doing out best to maintain the defensive skills that we have and the pitching, which has always been our mainstay."
Dickerson isn't as familiar with the Rays, having played in Colorado, but he is well aware of the plan.
"I look at our team and how good they are defensively and how good they are pitching, that makes me very excited to be a part of," he said.
And, in theory, a big part of.
"Offensively, I explain myself as a really laid-back guy. But once I get into competition, I absolutely never want to get beat," Dickerson said. "Every single at-bat, I'm going to compete. And the thing I can say is I want to compete every single at-bat and give it my all. And I hope that just brings energy to the team. I'm not trying to be anybody else. I'm just trying to be Corey Dickerson. I take every at-bat seriously and have fun out there."
Dickerson comes with a rap, as do other Rockies players, that their offensive success is primarily a product of play in the thin air and spacious grounds of Coors Field. A career on-base plus slugging percentage that is nearly 400 points better at home than on the road, 1.085 vs. .695, lends some validity.
He sounds more than ready to disprove that premise.
"I'm very confident in what I bring to the table," Dickerson said. "I feel like people always try to just point out the negative. I think you have to take advantage of your home field. And I think if you ever do research on any hitter, their track record tells you more who they are and what kind of hitter they are and not just because of their home-road split.
"I think if you look at my track record, you can follow me back since there is a track record and then tell me what you think. That's kind of how I feel about it. I feel like (former Rockies stars) Todd Helton and Larry Walker and guys like that deserve more respect for what they've done. And the guys in the NL West are very good pitchers."
Rays officials and manager Kevin Cash still have to sort out exactly how they are going to structure the lineup to maximize the offense, with the potential for incumbent first baseman James Loney to be the odd man out.
For example, if Desmond Jennings reclaims his role as the primary leftfielder (with Kevin Kiermaier in center and Steven Souza Jr. in right), Pearce and Morrison could end up primarily sharing time at first, and Dickerson could be the DH.
Dickerson has played only 10 career games at DH (with a .179 average and .650 OPS), but said he was fine with that assignment.
"I just enjoy hitting, I enjoy the competition," Dickerson said. "I enjoy the chess match of hitting. I enjoy the process — the thought process while I'm up there. I just enjoy it. I don't try to think of it as a DH. I try to think of it as situations to help the team win any way I can.
"I feel confident if I'm in that role, I'm going to have a job to do at some point in that game, and hopefully I'll get it done."
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow @ TBTimes_Rays.