Thursday, February 26, 2015

An Interview with Astros RHP Eric Peterson

Eric Peterson had a season in 2014 that crept up on me. Following his first month pitching for the Greeneville Astros, he had a 7.20 ERA, but by the time the season ended, Peterson had whittled that number down to a 2.35 ERA after allowing only two earned runs during his final two months pitching out of the Greeneville bullpen. Batters hit only .209 against him for the season and he ended with a 1.087 WHIP and 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings.

When I talked to Peterson recently by phone, he admitted that he'd rather forget about that first month of the season and focus on what he had accomplished by the end of the season. "Obviously, I struggled in the beginning, (but) I feel like I improved a lot over the course of the season," said Peterson, citing the improved consistency of his breaking ball and better pitch location.

Peterson throws from a low 3/4-arm slot which helps him get some natural run on his pitch offerings which include a high-80's to low 90's 4-seam fastball, curveball and changeup. Peterson considers his curveball to be his best pitch, but one of his fellow Greeneville Astros pitchers praised his changeup as well.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to see Peterson pitch when I visited Greeneville last summer so I asked him what I will see when I do see him pitch. According to Peterson, "I throw strikes. I'm certainly not going to back down from anyone. I'm really aggressive. Sometimes I can be too aggressive and leave balls over the plate when I'm ahead in the count. I don't walk too many guys." Peterson walked only one batter in his final 12 appearances of the season.

When quizzed about what Peterson felt he needed to do in order to get to the next step in his professional development, he indicated that he thinks he locates his fastball well, but has been working on being more consistent with his curveball and the arm slot he uses with that breaking pitch. During the 2014 season, he was also working on finding the sweet spot in his times to home plate.

Peterson and his fraternal twin brother LHP Patrick Peterson spent the first two and a half years of their collegiate careers at Temple University in Philadelphia, but had to transfer to North Carolina State University for the 2014 college season when Temple suddenly cut their baseball program in December 2013. With two players in the household looking to be drafted, it was a long couple of days for the Petersons as his brother Patrick was drafted in the 23rd round by Seattle and Eric's name was called in the 37th round, leading to sighs of relief all around.

When asked what he would do if he wasn't playing baseball, Peterson said that he would likely go back to  North Carolina State and finish his degree in Sports Management with an eye toward staying attached to the game in some way.

As I always do with pitchers, I asked Peterson who on that 2014 Greeneville squad had a pitch that he would like to steal. "I would probably say (Reymin) Guduan's fastball. You can't really teach mid to high 90's fastball, so that's definitely something I wish I could have."

And what hitter would he least like to face? "I would say Sean McMullen. He always puts up good at-bats. Another guy would be Antonio Nunez because the dude battles up there, every single time. He doesn't strike out." Those two players in particular can make a pitcher throw a lot of extra pitches.

Peterson didn't have much to share with me when asked to tell something most people don't know about him, but he did mention that, although he and his brother are fraternal twins, they do look enough alike that they are often mistaken for identical twins.

Thank you for your time, Eric, and best of luck in the upcoming season.

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