ATLANTA — The Jace Peterson who is returning to Atlanta this weekend is as close to the version who played every day for the Braves in 2015 as he's been since. And even if Peterson has only been performing that way for a week or so, the former first-round draft pick and Orioles waiver claim knows he's got to keep that going for as long as he can.
"One day in the cage, it just kind of clicked doing some drill work," Peterson said. "As a hitter, whenever you don't feel good, it's hard to be good. Whenever you find something, you've got to ride it out as long as you can and continue to prep before the game and continue to do the work.
"I just think it's a product of what we've been working on. My swing feels good. I think it goes back to the Boston series where I got some work in the cage and really started feeling it. For me, my swing feels good. I'm just continuing to rep it out and keep playing baseball."
Peterson batted leadoff Thursday against Max Scherzer, and he now has hits in his past five starts. His hot streak comes at a time when the Orioles are poised to activate infielder Tim Beckham next week after two months out following core muscle surgery.
Peterson stepped into a role vacated by both Beckham and second baseman Jonathan Schoop (oblique), and while he was an asset defensively for that entire stretch, his bat has only just come around. This hot stretch of batting .389 with two home runs and three doubles in his seven games before Friday and .276 in June brings him to an even .200 in an Orioles uniform.
"Jace's track record is so much better, statistically, than he's shown,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I don't know. He's gotten more comfortable. I think his bat path is better. He's not cheating so much with his fastball, letting it travel a little bit. He's a strong guy. He's capable. I've been waiting for a couple of balls to fly out of the park, because he's got that type of power. But he's a baseball player. He's fun to have around because he can play anywhere, and there's nothing beneath him. He's a pleasure to have around. He's a pro."
Mancini out again
Left fielder Trey Mancini was out of the lineup for a second straight day Friday with a neck that he said stiffened up while sleeping Wednesday. Showalter said he hoped Mancini would be available to pinch-hit in the series opener against the Braves, but Mancini spent the past two days in significant discomfort.
Mancini said if there was any improvement from Thursday night to Friday afternoon before he took dry swings that if there was any improvement, it was "ever so slightly.
“It’s just a really annoying occurrence to have happen, but I guess the bed or the pillow, I don’t know what it was, but I woke up yesterday and couldn’t turn my head left or move it up," Mancini said. "So, we’re working hard in there. It’s been pretty painful, but trying to loosen it up and do some deep tissue massage and everything you can to try to loosen it up, because you hate, especially playing a National League team, you hate to not be available.”
The discomfort from a long night of travel from Washington to Atlanta didn't help, but even so, Mancini spoke more optimistically of playing than he did looking back at how he felt Thursday.
"Yesterday definitely wasn’t happening," he said. "I took some dry swings and it was hurting pretty bad. I think today might be ever so slightly better, so yeah, I’m hoping to kind of keep it warm and keep it loose just in case I’m needed out there.”
Mancini entered Friday batting .220/.292/.362 with nine home runs.
Beckham back Monday
After saying frequently that Beckham (core muscle surgery) would be ready to return from the 60-day disabled list Saturday, the first day he was eligible, Showalter said the infielder’s return was actually likely for Monday when the team returns to Baltimore.
Beckham played with Triple-A Norfolk on Friday.
"I think that's the plan," Showalter said. "It depends on how he feels and looks. I think he's planning on playing a couple more games there. That's what the plan is."
While that's likely disappointing for one Georgia native in Beckham, who would have gotten to return in his hometown, it likely means rookie Steve Wilkerson, of Roswell, Ga., will get to spend the weekend playing in his home state.
The Orioles have signed two more selections from the 2018 draft: fourth-round left-hander Drew Rom and 21st-round left-hander Nick Meservey. The Orioles have now signed 25 selections.