Ten days ago, Jace Peterson was named the International League Batter of the Week. On the same day, he exercised an opt-out clause from his contract with the Norfolk Tides. However, he quickly re-signed with the Orioles.
Now, Peterson, who spent nearly all of 2018 with the Orioles, is back in the major leagues. The Orioles called him up on Thursday and sent Rio Ruiz to Norfolk.
Peterson hit .313 with 10 home runs and 46 runs batted in with the Tides.
It’s the second time Peterson re-signed with the Orioles. After last season, when he hit .193 in 93 games, he was taken off the 40-man roster, but almost immediately signed a minor league contract with the Orioles.
“I mean, honestly, I think I’m just growing as a player,” Peterson said of his success with Norfolk this season.
“I’m getting older. I’m 29 now. Did some things in the spring to kind of make a small adjustment and kept working on it down there, and it’s been good. Been able to find some holes and put the barrel on the baseball. So, just small adjustments at the plate that you do and definitely a growing year for me at the plate and looking to carry it over.”
Manager Brandon Hyde likes the versatility Peterson brings to the club.
In 2018, Peterson played six positions—all except first base, center field and catcher. He even had a rough inning on the mound in September at Fenway Park, when he allowed four runs in an inning.
“Any time you can add versatility, it’s for the better and Jace gives us that,” Hyde said. “We’re a little short in the middle at times.”
On Sunday, the Orioles designated outfielder Keon Broxton for assignment, forcing Stevie Wilkerson to play more center field, and that left an opening for Peterson, who’ll play anywhere.
“It doesn’t matter,” Peterson said. “Down there I played a lot of third, first, second, short, left, right. Really, I’m prepared to play everywhere until I hear different … Right now, I’m prepared to play everywhere.”
Peterson’s 90 games in the minor leagues were the most he’s played since 2013, the year before he debuted with San Diego.
“Triple-A’s a different opportunity,” Peterson said. “You go in there and play your best baseball and do what you can.
“Obviously, if you don’t do well down there, you’re not going to get a shot. No one gets up here to the big leagues by accident. There’s a lot of players that go down there and pout … It’s not going to help your cause. You really have to go down there and know what you’ve got to work on and try and get better and play the game. If the right situation is there, it will happen for you.”
The demotion of Ruiz seemed a bit of a surprise. Ruiz was hitting .238 with five home runs and 27 RBIs.
“Rio did a nice job, especially defensively while he was here,” Hyde said. “We talked about a few things for him to work on offensively. He knows that … He’ll be back here at some point.”
Hyde said that it wasn’t that the Orioles wanted to send Ruiz down. With Broxton’s departure, they’re playing with a three-man bench, and Peterson fit their current needs better.
“It was more about getting Jace here,” Hyde said. “He’s had a really nice year and he can add some versatility to our club. He plays middle infield, third base as well as corner outfield. He’s earned it. He really swung the bat well at Norfolk.”
With the trading deadline coming on July 31, there could be more changes on the Orioles, and Ruiz’s stay in Norfolk could be a short one.
“I wouldn’t say he was struggling offensively,” Hyde said of Ruiz. “But there’s things he could definitely improve on and going down to Norfolk, getting everyday at-bats in Triple-A against right-handed and left-handed pitching, I think is going to help him.”