OAKLAND – After the A's finished a sweep of the Houston Astros with a 7-5 win Wednesday afternoon, Shane Peterson readied for his imminent return to the minors in possession of a ball, a significant hand in two Oakland wins and a memory.
The 25-year-old Southern Californian was called up from the Triple-A River Cats on Tuesday when the A's placed first baseman Brandon Moss on the paternity list. Moss' baby made his debut into the world Tuesday afternoon, and Moss is expected to rejoin the A's today as they leave for a six-game trip. Peterson made his major-league debut Tuesday night.
Peterson has played 529 games in the minor leagues since being drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008. He knew this was likely going to be a short stay. Players can stay on the paternity list for up to three days, which doesn't offer much time for a replacement to make an impression. But A's manager Bob Melvin said after Wednesday's game that Peterson was leaving one.
"And a very good impression," Melvin said. "We saw him at first (base) for the first time. He made a great play again today and faced numerous left-handers here and had good at-bats against them. This kid, he's ready to play in the big leagues. It's just not his time right at this minute."
The ball Peterson takes with him is from his first major-league hit. It came in the fourth inning Wednesday off Astros left-hander Xavier Cedeno. Leading off, Peterson sat back on a 1-1 breaking ball from Cedeno and lined it into center field for a single. He later scored his first run on a Jed Lowrie fielder's choice.
"I was rounding first base (after the single) and I felt like I hit a grand slam, even though it was a single up the middle," Peterson said. "It was exciting."
Peterson had already recorded his first big-league RBI in the A's six-run first inning. He drew a walk with the bases loaded, forcing in Oakland's fifth run. After going hitless in his debut Tuesday, and batting with runners in scoring position for the first time, he admitted that waiting out the walk took an amount of restraint.
"That was the first time I had an opportunity to try to do a little bit more, help get the team off to a good start," he said. "I was really just trying to focus on the pitch and not worry about it."
It was not his first major contribution to an A's win. Tuesday night, his diving backhanded stab of a Rick Ankiel line drive with the bases loaded in the third saved at least two runs, possibly three, and preserved a two-run deficit the A's eventually overcame – barely – in a 4-3 win. Peterson had played one game this season at first base and none during spring training.
"That's his natural position," Melvin said of Peterson, who has played mostly outfield in the minors. "When you have a natural position, you're off for a little while, it is to an extent like riding a bike. And he certainly looked comfortable out there."
Peterson said Tuesday night was "the first time in a long time I felt like I've really been nervous" going into a game, but the butterflies went away after the first half-inning. That's the biggest thing he can take away from this brief call-up, he said, is "getting the nerves out of the way. The more opportunities I get, the more comfortable I am, the more I feel like I'll play like myself."
The memory that stood out to him, in the moments after the final out Wednesday, was of a brief conversation with bullpen coach Darren Bush before the game. Bush managed Peterson in parts of the last four seasons in the minors. He congratulated Peterson on making his debut.
"He was talking about how nobody can take that away from you, and that's kind of what I feel like right now," Peterson said. "No matter what happens in my career, you know, hopefully there's plenty more opportunities, but at least you have that one hit. That's something that nobody can take away.
"Still got a lot more work to do, to go back down and get back up here. But at least for right now, that's kind of how I feel."