Peterson looks to regain stroke, utility role in Triple-A

Say this for Jace Peterson; he doesn’t meddle in the middle.

In just over a year’s time, his study in extremes has gone from becoming the Braves’ every day second baseman to now fighting his way back to the big leagues.

Peterson is three weeks into a stint with Triple-A Gwinnett, trying to find his identity and a batting stroke that left him after 70 games in Atlanta last year. A steadily declining batting average hasn’t exactly been stanched in Gwinnett. Peterson was hitting .176 (9-for-51) through his first 13 games, though he had hit safely in each of his past four games, including his first multi-hit game and a three-run triple Friday night against Charlotte.

“I feel like I’m just now getting in a rhythm, seeing the ball good and looking to keep it going,” Peterson said over the weekend while Gwinnett played a series with Charlotte.

He’s had a whirlwind month off the field, too. Peterson and fiancée Brianna Pugh, a former Oregon soccer player, welcomed a daughter, Marley Rae, on May 7. Peterson took three days to go home to Lake Charles, La., for her birth, before rejoining Gwinnett in Rochester, N.Y., where he celebrated his 26th birthday.

“(Getting sent down) is not the end of the world,” Peterson said. “I feel like my best baseball is ahead of me and I feel good right now. Just looking to keep that going.”

Peterson, a former Padres first-round pick, was the first of the four prospects the Braves acquired in the Justin Upton trade to make the big leagues and a splash.

But this time a year ago, he tore a right thumb tendon making a diving play against the Dodgers and an early torrid 50-game stretch gave way to offensive struggles. Peterson played the rest of the season with an injury that required 10 weeks in a cast over the winter.

“It wasn’t 100 percent at contact,” said Peterson, who didn’t divulge the injury publicly last season. “I wasn’t able to put my swing out every time like I wanted to. I was having a tendency to lift things instead of staying on top and driving the ball the other way. It was sore, but I could play and that’s the past and I’m not really worried about it anymore.”

While Peterson said his thumb is back to 100 percent, he’s still searching for results at the plate.

After starting at second base Opening Day, he hit just .181 (8-for-44) in 21 games and saw diminished playing time before former manager Fredi Gonzalez told him the Braves wanted him getting regular at-bats in Gwinnett.

“I know that I’m a big leaguer,” Peterson said. “When things don’t go your way, you can either do two things: You can either quit or keep fighting. And I’m going to keep playing and keep getting better.”

Peterson said he’s trying to make the most of playing every day.

“Down here in Triple-A, I feel like a lot of guys tend to get bitter but that’s not who I am,” he said. “That’s not the player I’m going to be. So for me, I’m going to play hard no matter where I’m at. I’m enjoying playing down here right now.”

The player he will eventually become is still very much up in the air. With top middle infield prospects Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson charging up the minor league ranks, the Braves want to see Peterson take advantage of his athleticism in more of a utility role.

The Braves played Peterson in left field for four games in April and he’s played the last two games with Gwinnett in center field. He also started at third base for Atlanta on May 1 before being optioned to Gwinnett.

“I’m willing to play anywhere,” Peterson said. “To me, the more positions you can play, the more valuable you are. You look at a guy like Ben Zobrist who’s been in the league forever. To me, he’s the ultimate utility guy. Guys that can play anywhere and hit left-handed are valuable. So, that’s where I am. Continue to play hard and be the best player I can be.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Atlanta Braves

Braves ‘open-minded’ on retaining Markakis, Suzuki
Braves ‘open-minded’ on retaining Markakis, Suzuki

The Braves are preparing for a busy winter, with two key free agents creating a critical subplot. Outfielder Nick Markakis and catcher Kurt Suzuki are set to explore the market. Both played a pivotal role in the team’s turnaround, on and off the field, and both add intangibles to a young team mostly lacking veteran position players outside Freddie...
Braves GM: Don’t read too much into Teheran not starting in NLDS
Braves GM: Don’t read too much into Teheran not starting in NLDS

Julio Teheran started the past five opening days for the Braves. Yet when they returned to relevancy, he was nowhere to be found. Teheran didn’t start against the Dodgers in the National League Division Series. The Braves rolled with Mike Foltynewicz, Anibal Sanchez, Sean Newcomb and opted to bring back Foltynewicz on short rest for Game...
Braves payroll will increase, but that doesn’t mean Harper or Machado
Braves payroll will increase, but that doesn’t mean Harper or Machado

The Braves will have an increased payroll for 2019, general manager Alex Anthopoulos confirmed Monday. And they’ll be advantageous in exploring avenues to maximize that flexibility. After trading Matt Kemp – and his hefty salary that was roughly $36 million over two seasons – for a plethora of expiring deals, the Braves were expected...
VOTE: Who was the Braves’ MVP this season?
VOTE: Who was the Braves’ MVP this season?

The Braves’ youthful roster had a number of contributors to make the postseason in 2018. But who stood out among them all? Who would be your pick for the team’s most-valuable player? Here are your choices: • Freddie Freeman led the team in batting average (.309), on-base percentage (.388), , hits (191) doubles (44), and RBIs (98)...
Brian Snitker’s near life-long trek with Braves continues
Brian Snitker’s near life-long trek with Braves continues

Braves manager Brian Snitker embodies the baseball lifer. A long-time minor league coach, the journey seems all worthwhile now. It was being absent from family for weeks, months. Lengthy nights on the bus, sometimes enduring flat tires or breakdowns that’d require spending the night in a stranger’s machine shed. It was receiving a call...
More Stories