Juan Pierre needed just four games in Triple A, in 2000, to prove he was ready to play in the big leagues.
Now in his ninth season in the majors, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ fleet-footed outfielder is hoping for a similar scenario to play out this week at Cashman Field.
Pierre started a rehab assignment for a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee in impressive fashion Wednesday — going 2-for-2 with a double, a single, a walk and two runs scored in five innings in the 51s’ 11-6 win over Omaha.
"Hopefully I’ll be ready to go in a couple days. I don’t see any signs why I wouldn’t be, but I don’t want to jinx myself," Pierre said before leading off and playing left field for Las Vegas. "I’m good — good enough to play."
Barring any setbacks, Pierre is expected to play three games here before rejoining the Dodgers on Saturday.
"If he picks up 10 or 12 at-bats and his legs and knees are feeling good, I don’t anticipate him being here much longer than that," 51s manager Lorenzo Bundy said. "Hopefully he gets through these three days healthy and he can get back up there and help our major league club."
Pierre is healing ahead of schedule after batting .277 with a team-best 35 stolen bases in 73 games this season with Los Angeles.
After incurring his injury during a June 29 game against the Los Angeles Angels — when shortstop Erick Aybar landed on Pierre’s lower leg as he slid headfirst into second base on an attempted steal — Pierre was expected to miss six to eight weeks. But it’s been a little more than three and he’s raring to go.
"(My knee) came back a lot quicker than people thought," said Pierre, who had never before been on the disabled list. "I never hurt my knee, so I didn’t know what to expect either, but every day it progressed and got better, and here we are testing it out."
After signing a five-year, $44 million contract with the Dodgers before last season, Pierre played in all 162 games last year, hit .293 and led the team with 96 runs scored, 196 hits and 64 steals — his most since stealing 65 in 2003, when he helped the Florida Marlins win the World Series.
Pierre, who turns 31 on Aug. 14, has the most steals in the majors (417) since 2001.
The owner of four 200-hit seasons and a .300 career batting average, Pierre entered this year with the longest active consecutive games streak in baseball, at 434.
It came to an end on Opening Day, when he was benched in favor of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Andruw Jones, but Pierre still prides himself on being ready to play every day.
"Because this game is played every day and it’s an only-the-strong-survive kind of thing … to be put on the DL was a real big blow," he said. "It hasn’t been easy for me, but it has motivated me to get back out there."LAS VEGAS — 11 OMAHA — 6 KEY: Mitch Jones hit a first-inning grand slam and finished with five RBIs for the 51s, who never trailed in the game. NEXT: Royals (Dusty Hughes) at 51s (Miguel Pinango), 7:05 p.m. today, Cashman Field