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03/11/09 4:53 PM ET

Pearce returns to action for Pirates

Outfield prospect plays after missing 11 games with calf injury

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Steve Pearce made his return to the field on Wednesday, marking his first Grapefruit League appearance since Feb. 26.

Pearce, who had missed the previous 11 games because of left calf soreness, entered Wednesday's game to play first base in the sixth. He went 0-for-2 at the plate in his return. He was 1-for-3 with a walk before going down with the injury, which first surfaced during the final day of workouts back at Pirate City.

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Pearce is scheduled to spend part of Thursday back at Pirate City, taking swings off live Minor League pitching. The nearly two-week layoff from the injury has Pearce noticeably rusty at the plate.

The Pirates have been adamant in including Pearce's name among those fighting for the final two bench spots, and he will continue to get playing time at both first and in right field for the remainder of the spring. The extra week of Spring Training also plays in Pearce's favor, as he now still has three and a half weeks to prepare for the start of the regular season.

"Now I know that my chances are limited, so I've got to go right in there and make an impact," Pearce said. "I can't afford to not do well these first couple of games."

With Pearce back on the field, the Pirates now have half of their injured outfielders back in action. Jose Tabata, who was bothered by mild right shoulder inflammation, also returned to the field on Wednesday. Though Tabata did serve as the designated hitter in Monday's loss, Wednesday marked the first time that the 20-year-old appeared in the outfield.

Eric Hinske (left rib-cage bruise) is expected to make his first Grapefruit League appearance since Feb. 26 later this week as well. Back on Monday, General manager Neal Huntington projected a Thursday or Friday return for Hinske. Manager John Russell said that while the Pirates were in Dunedin, Hinske was back in Bradenton, Fla., taking swings on Wednesday.

A report on how Hinske felt after hitting was not immediately available.

When Hinske does return to the field, it will leave Brandon Moss (right thumb sprain and bruise) as the only remaining Pirates outfielder on the mend. His recovery period, however, will be significantly longer, and a return date has not been set.

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