FORT MYERS, Fla. — Steve Pearce and Mitch Moreland could not be faulted if they wanted to savor their feats of last fall just a little longer.
After all, both Red Sox first basemen delivered specific, special moments in the Red Sox’ five-game World Series victory over the Dodgers that will not soon, if ever, be forgotten.
Most Red Sox fans probably don’t require a reminder, though one is always welcome, right?
Moreland’s three-run homer in the seventh inning of Game 4 may have been the pivotal plot-twist in the Series given that the Red Sox trailed, 4-0, at the time, with the Dodgers threatening to tie it at 2 games apiece.
His blast of Pedro Baez cut the margin to 4-3, awakened a strikingly significant number of Red Sox fans in the Dodger Stadium crowd, and jolted the Sox offense awake. They won, 9-6, and became World Series champions for the fourth time this century the following night.
Pearce, of course, played an enormous role in clinching the victory, hitting a pair of homers in Game 5 and being named the World Series Most Valuable Player.
Both Pearce and Moreland homered in their final plate appearance in the series. (Moreland did not play in Game 5, so his homer off Baez was his final swing of the season.)
Spring training is pretty much the polar opposite of the Fall Classic in terms of relevance and intensity. But it was notable Wednesday that Pearce made his spring debut, theoretically his first swings with genuine intention since that homer in the World Series clincher.
He batted fifth in the lineup and went 0 for 2 in the Red Sox’ 6-1 loss to the Pirates Wednesday at JetBlue Park. He flew out to left field in the second inning and grounded into a 6-4-3 double play in the fifth before departing for the day. Afterward, the star of last fall admitted he had some nerves before his first game of the spring.
“It was kind of exciting and anxious at the same time,’’ he said, noting that manager Alex Cora had told him in advance that Wednesday would be his first game. “Especially when you get the date when you’re going to play, you get a little countdown going [in your head].
“[But] I feel great. Just going through the spring grind, that’s it.’’
Moreland hit right behind Pearce in the No. 6 spot in the lineup, his second game of the spring. He went 0 for 1 Tuesday, getting drilled with a Kyle Crick pitch in the fifth inning before leaving for a pinch runner.
“[Facing live pitching again] is always an adjustment,’’ said Moreland. “You’re still trying to get a little bit of a feel, getting in there against a live arm, picking up the ball, working on balance, that sort of stuff.’’
The lefthanded-hitting Moreland played 124 games for the Red Sox last season, while the righthanded-hitting Pearce played in 50 after coming over from the Blue Jays for minor-leaguer Santiago Espinal on June 28. Pearce was quick to re-sign with the Red Sox in October, setting up what could be an ideal platoon at the position. Moreland said he’s more than OK with it if that ends up being how it works out.
“This is the best situation I’ve been in in my whole career,’’ he said. “This is no different for me, and he did a great job with us last year. It couldn’t have worked out better with winning the World Series. So if we can keep everything the same, give everything the best chance we can to do it again, then I’m all about it.’’
While there’s a notion in professional sports that you must put the achievements of the previous season behind you when a new season begins — hello, Patriots — Moreland said that is not his plan.
“Absolutely not,’’ he said. “I think about the World Series all the time. It’s a big accomplishment. We should never try to put it behind us. We set out to accomplish one goal, and we did it, and knowing that we did it might be valuable in trying to do it again.’’
Pearce acknowledged he thinks about the World Series all the time as well — with the reminders often coming from the fans.
“I like [hearing about it],’’ he said. “I hear it a little bit.’’
What’s the thing you hear most often from the fans?
“MVP,’’ he said with a smile.