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  1. Rays

Rays get former Oriole Steve Pearce

Published Jan. 22, 2016

ST. PETERSBURG — Steve Pearce has made himself at home at the Trop over the past couple of seasons, hitting seven homers in 18 games for the Orioles.

Now he is set to make the Trop his home for 2016, agreeing to a one-year deal with the Rays, expected to be made official next week, the Tampa Bay Times has learned. Financial terms are not yet known.

Pearce, 33 in April, provides right-handed power to a Rays lineup that was next to last in the American League in runs scored along with defensive versatility. The Rays, who won't comment until the deal is official, figure to take advantage, using the Lakeland product at DH, at first base against lefty pitchers, and occasionally in the outfield. He also has filled in at second and third base.

Pearce is coming off a rough season in which he missed more than a month with an oblique strain and hit only .218 with 15 homers, 40 RBIs and a .711 on-base slugging percentage while making $3.7 million.

But that was after a career-best 2014 season in which he hit at .293 with 21 homers, 49 RBIs and a .930 OPS, ranking as one of the most productive hitters in the game. His gritty style, aggressive attitude and run-through-a-wall approach made him a favorite of Orioles manager Buck Showalter.

"When you've been through some of the challenges and constant trials Steve has been to constantly prove himself, I don't think he's ever going to say, 'I've got this figured out,' " Showalter told the Baltimore Sun last spring. "He's never going to take anything for granted."

An eighth-round pick by Pittsburgh in 2005, Pearce played parts of five seasons with the Pirates, then spent 2012 bouncing between the Twins, Yankees and Astros before finding a niche with the Orioles.

A fair amount of Pearce's success with Baltimore came against the Rays, especially at Tropicana Field where he has a career 1.039 OPS (including the seven homers and five doubles) in 86 plate appearances.

Though Pearce's walks were down and his strikeouts up, a part of his 2015 dropoff could be attributed to bad luck as he had a large decline, nearly 100 points, in batting average on balls in play.

A formal announcement of the deal will be made after the Rays review results of a physical exam conducted this week. The team then will have to make room for Pearce on its 40-man roster.

NO CHARGES: State prosecutors will not file charges in a domestic disturbance case involving Yankees pitcher Aroldis Chapman. Broward County Assistant State Attorney Stefanie Newman wrote that conflicting accounts and insufficient evidence made a conviction unlikely. According to a police report, Chapman's girlfriend, 22-year-old Cristina Barnea, told police he pushed and choked her. Chapman said there was an argument but said he was pushed down by Barnea's brother. Chapman said he eventually got a gun and fired eight shots into a wall and window while locked in his garage. A proposed trade of Chapman from the Reds to the Dodgers fell apart after the incident was made public. He was then traded to the Yankees last month.

OWNERS' MEETINGS: Commissioner Rob Manfred says National League teams might be more receptive to the DH than in the past, even though owners ended two days of meetings without any serious discussion. Last week, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said there was more momentum lately for the DH in the NL, but owners weren't inclined to consider a change when they met this week. In other meeting news, video review is making a slight expansion and can be used to place baserunners on overthrows into the seats and on fan interference. And this year's deadline to make trades without waivers is being pushed back a day to Aug. 1, hoping to avoid having players on the field during Sunday afternoon games as they're about to get dealt.

WHITE SOX: Reliever Matt Albers was re-signed to a one-year deal that guarantees $2.25 million and includes a club option for 2017. The 33-year-old right-hander will receive $2 million next season. The team holds a $3 million option for 2017 with a $250,000 buyout. Albers went 2-0 with a 1.21 ERA in 30 appearances last season; he was on the disabled list (April 20-July 15) with a broken pinky finger. Albers is 27-31 with a 4.20 ERA over 10 seasons with six different teams.

Marc Topkin can be reached at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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