Blue Jays’ Steve Pearce shut down for season with lower back stiffness

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TORONTO – Steve Pearce won’t play again this season because of the lower back stiffness that has sidelined him since Sept. 8. The left fielder will instead receive epidural injections Monday that are intended to address his back pain.

"I’ve just got to get this thing calmed down," Pearce said Friday. "I’ve been dealing with it for a while and it flared up."

Pearce is expected to travel to Florida to meet with a spine specialist who will administer the epidurals. Afterwards the 34-year-old will rest up in Florida while the Blue Jays wrap up their season in Boston and New York.

"It’s a pretty easy procedure, but the hardest thing is you’ve got to rest," he said. "You’ve got to let this thing heal and start with general exercises—nothing hard out of the gate. Even if you feel like you can, just stay simple for a while."

Pearce, who spent May 15-June 15 on the disabled list with a right calf strain, initially felt hamstring discomfort before realizing that it was related to his lower back.

"I thought the whole year it was my leg, but it’s coming from my back," he said. "It’s just one of those things that just happens over time."

The first season of a two-year, $12.5 million contract included more than a few highs and lows for Pearce. His 13 home runs included not one but two walk-off grand slams, and he ended up hitting .252/.319/.438 in 92 games.

"It was a roller coaster," Pearce said. "I started off really slow, got hurt, then came back with a vengeance, came back on fire, and rode that way for a long time. Fun season, just didn’t end up the way we’d like it to."

Pearce was initially brought in to play a combination of left field and first base, but Justin Smoak’s breakout season pushed Pearce to left, where he shared playing time with Ezequiel Carrera. With Smoak and Kendrys Morales in place at first base and DH, Pearce projects as a left fielder in 2018, when he’ll earn $6.25 million.

The Blue Jays assured themselves of a losing record Thursday with a 1-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals, but when Pearce looks ahead at the 2018 season, he expects better results even if many of the same players return.

"We still have the talent," he said.

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