Braves' Jace Peterson seeks way back amid longer than expected run in Triple-A
GWINNETT, Ga. -- The initial estimate was a 10-day stay at a minimum, maybe 20 max. When Jace Peterson was demoted to Triple-A on May 2, then Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said the former starting second baseman just needed some consistent playing time.
It's now been more than a month, Thursday's 2-1 win over the Lehigh Valley IronPigs marking Peterson's 26th game in Gwinnett.
"When they tell you that and you're here longer, it's definitely not the news you heard and definitely not the news you want to hear," Peterson said of the early expectations of when he would return to Atlanta. "Can't do nothing about it ... you control what you can control."
There's been frustration in that too, with Peterson hitting .186/.268/.258 with three doubles, two triples and a 15.4 strikeout rate in 97 at-bats. He went 0 for 3 Thursday with a strikeout.
The 26-year-old's troubles at the plate were largely behind his demotion, as he hit .182 in 50 plate appearances. While he disclosed in January that he went the last four months of 2015 with a partially torn thumb ligament -- which played its part in his hitting .228 after a .262 average the first 50 games -- Peterson stresses it's still not bothering him.
"Baseball is a funny game and I think the thumb issue is not an issue and I'm 100 percent healthy and it has nothing to do with the way I'm playing now," he said. "I feel like I'm playing good baseball, it's just not going my way. I'm going to continue to fight every day and that's' all I can do."
The team's Opening Day second baseman in each of the past two seasons, Peterson lost that full-time job after five games and would see time there in just six of the next 15 games before his demotion.
That has proven one of the more difficult parts of Peterson's season.
"For me, I feel like last year I was a starting second baseman and I played every day. This year I was told I was going to be a starting second baseman and play every day and for me that never happened," Peterson said. "They can say 'Well, you didn't perform like you did last year' well, I had 40 at-bats, wasn't playing every day up there. Now, I'm here and not swinging it like I want to.
"It's a game of numbers, and at the end of the day, no matter how you feel, no matter how you look, whatever your numbers are, that's what's going to play. It is what it is."
Versatility was stressed this spring as an integral part of Peterson's game going forward, as he also played left field and third in Atlanta.
That's continued at Triple-A, with Thursday his 10th game in center field, while he's spent the other 16 at second. It remains that position, and shortstop -- where he's played most of his life -- that he believes are his true strengths.
"I know I'm a really good second baseman, a really good shortstop," Peterson said. "I know I can play anywhere else. Wherever they put me, I'm just going to continue to go play and get better and that's where my mindset is and where I'm focused at right now."
His time in Gwinnett has also brought upon a milestone in Peterson's life with the birth of his daughter Marley Rae on May 6 -- and a realization all new parents face.
"You don't sleep," he said. "She's up, wide-eyed looking at you."
Initially giving way to Gordon Beckham at second base in Atlanta, Peterson hasn't been helped in his bid to return to the big league roster by the rise of another utility option in Chase d'Arnaud. He's posted a .345/.402./.452 slash line while playing second base, third base, shortstop and right field.
But all Peterson can do now is what he's done for more than a month: wait.
"Whenever it's time it will be time," he said. "I'm not going to continue to sit here and think about it or dwell on it. ... For me it's just being the best player I can be every day."
Follow Cory McCartney on Twitter @coryjmccartney and Facebook. His book, 'Tales from the Atlanta Braves Dugout: A Collection of the Greatest Braves Stories Ever Told,' is out now, and 'The Heisman Trophy: The Story of an American Icon and Its Winners' will be released Nov. 1, 2016.