The 2013 season was filled with highs and lows for Shane Peterson. Added to the 40-man roster during the off-season, Peterson had a huge spring training, hitting .406 with an 1116 OPS in 49 at-bats in his first big league camp. Peterson remained with the big league team until the final cuts that spring. Assigned to Triple-A Sacramento, Peterson got off to a good start and he found himself in the big leagues in mid-April when Brandon Moss went on the paternity leave list.
Peterson appeared in two games with the A's, collecting a hit and a walk in seven at-bats. He also made a game-saving diving catch at first base. Peterson returned to Sacramento after those two games, and he almost immediately started to struggle. Those struggles lasted until August, when he put together a huge month to finish the year on an up note. Peterson ended the 2013 season with a .251/.358/.387 line. He established career-highs in homeruns (12), stolen bases (17), RBI (79), doubles (25) and walks (77), but he also struck-out a career-high 127 times. It was only the second time in Peterson's career that he had more than 100 strike-outs.
This spring, Peterson came into camp knowing that his chances of making the A's Opening Day roster were slim given the A's outfield depth. However, he hoped to have another extended opportunity to prove himself to the A's big league coaching staff. Instead, Peterson appeared in just 10 games, collecting only 12 at-bats. He had two hits and he walked four times.
Peterson hasn't been short on opportunities to play since the start of the 2014 regular season, however. The Southern California native has been a fixture at the top of the Sacramento River Cats' order and in the middle of the River Cats' defense. In previous seasons, Peterson has often hit anywhere from second to sixth in the order and has generally played in right or left field. This season, Peterson has been the River Cats' regular lead-off hitter and has played every game in centerfield.
The new roles have looked good on Peterson thus far. Through Saturday, Peterson is batting .310 with an 860 OPS and two homeruns in 21 games. He has walked 11 times and has scored 15 runs. Peterson also has four stolen bases in four chances. Defensively, he has already picked up two outfield assists.
We spoke with Peterson on Thursday about his approach this season, his new spots in the field and in the line-up and more…
OaklandClubhouse: After kind of an up-and-down season last year, did you come into this season with a different mindset at all?
Shane Peterson: I feel like I was trying not to do too much this year, trying not to change too much. I finished off the season pretty strong last year, so I was just trying to carry that over. I didn't get a lot of opportunities this spring up in [big league] camp, but I got a lot of opportunities when I was sent down. I tried not to make too many adjustments, tried not to get into my head. I knew that if I came out here and at least did well – not necessarily needed to come out hot-hot – but at least do well, I'd be in a good spot.OC: You have been playing a lot of centerfield this season. Is that a position you are enjoying playing again?
SP: Yeah. I talked to Scar [manager Steve Scarsone] a little bit before the season. We didn't have a true centerfielder on the roster, or a leadoff guy either. He was like, ‘hey, this would be a good opportunity for you to show off some different elements of your game.' And I agreed. It's something that I haven't really done much of as a pro. I have been more of a middle-of-the-line-up, corner outfield guy. He was like, ‘hey, this will be good for the A's and good for other teams to see you in this position and to see a part of your game – your speed – that is underestimated a lot.' After talking to him about it, I definitely agreed.
OC: You have been running a lot more thus far this season. Is that part of your new role?
SP: Yeah, definitely. In the past, I didn't really have that many attempts. I didn't get thrown out that many times, so I was something like 14-for-15 or something like that. I was trying to get more attempts and that might result in more caught-stealings but should result in a lot more stolen bases.
OC: Was your second spring training with the big league club any easier since you had done it before?
SP: It was just different. It was kind of weird. I was thinking it was more of a flip-flop. I sort of expected last year to go the way this spring did – because I wasn't [in big league camp] very long this year. I was thinking that that was how it was going to be the first year [when he was in big league camp the entire spring]. I went into this spring training not anticipating too much. I was hoping to be up there longer, but I felt comfortable up there. I knew all of the coaches. It was a different mindset.
I wasn't trying to repeat what I did last year. It's tough when you go in late in the game. I know I did well [last year], but I didn't feel like I did anything differently this year. I felt like I was swinging the bat pretty well this spring. I just wasn't getting the breaks I did last spring.
OC: It's funny that your big league time with the A's last season you played first base, and that isn't a position you have played a lot of since coming to the A's organization. Is playing first base like riding a bike?
SP: You can't just go cold turkey and jump right back into the position, but I have played first base since I was 10 all the way up until I was drafted. It definitely comes more naturally to me. I am definitely more comfortable there than in the outfield. I definitely have to work harder in the outfield to feel comfortable there.
OC: You've always been a patient hitter. Does batting lead-off change your mindset as a hitter at all?
SP: It's a little bit different. I'm still getting used to it. One of the reasons that I went there was because Scar agreed that it fit into my game plan well and that I wouldn't have to really change a whole lot. The only thing that is really different is that first at-bat, for me. Being that first guy up there and taking another pitch that I normally wouldn't want to. Other than that, it is fitting into my game really well.