Peterson likely to remain primary second baseman

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez plans to use his projected lineup for most of the final week of spring training, and that usually will include Jace Peterson at second base.

Gonzalez indicated Saturday that Peterson, who’s played some at every position except first base and catcher during the first 3 1/2 weeks of Grapefruit League games, would remain the primary second baseman entering the 2016 season. He doesn’t plan at the outset to use a platoon at second base with Peterson and right-handed hitter Gordon Beckham.

While Kelly Johnson and Beckham could get some starts at second, it likely would be based on favorable matchups, at least initially.

“These next seven days it’s not going to be straight platoon like you’re thinking about, but you’re going to see certain guys play certain spots and give us an opportunity to evaluate,” Gonzalez said, adding that Peterson “wasn’t in a platoon first half of the season, and he was hitting the ball well. Beckham’s got a track record. But we’ll see. Whoever plays well, plays.”

The Braves want to see if Peterson can hit like he did early last season before tearing a thumb ligament, an injury that he played through without letting the Braves know the severity. After hitting .309 with a .389 OBP and .426 slugging percentage in a 50-game stretch through June 21, he hit .204 with a .274 OBP and .294 slugging over his final 87 games.

Peterson wore a cast for two months after the season and rehabbed extensively before coming to camp with what he said was a healthy thumb and having regained most of his strength. He hit .275 (11-for-40) before Saturday with three doubles, a triple, eight RBIs and a .408 OBP in 17 games.

Retired Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, now a special assistant to baseball operations, has been working with Peterson and watched intently as he took batting practice before Saturday’s game against the Mets. Jones had some words of encouragement after a couple of good swings, and told a reporter that he thinks Peterson has the ability to hit well and just needs to be healthy.

While some in his situation might have been put off by moving around the diamond throughout spring training, Peterson saw only positives in it.

“It’s been good, man,” he said. “I’ve gotten to play everywhere but first and catcher, so it’s been good learning those positions and getting some game reps at those positions. It’s been fun learning, fun getting out there and getting some different looks. I’m enjoying it and looking forward to just continuing to work at it and get better at it.”

Second base is his favorite position, but being a big-leaguer is what he likes most of all.

“I want to be a major league player for as long as I can, and if playing everywhere and playing a bunch of positions is going to help that cause, absolutely I’m open to it,” Peterson said. “Of course I’m open to playing second; second is where I feel most comfortable. But third’s good, shortstop’s good, outfield’s good, and I’ll let you know about first (base) if I get there.

“But everything else is comfortable, and for me it’s just about getting those reps and seeing those different looks during the game and continuing to just work on them.”

Gonzalez said part of the motivation for playing Peterson at shortstop — he moved there again in the late innings Saturday — was to gauge whether he could play the position for several days if anything happened to starter Erick Aybar.

“We don’t really have a legitimate backup shortstop, somebody you feel comfortable with,” Gonzalez said. “Say if Aybar has a three-day injury, we’re trying to find out who can play their three days.”

If Peterson is needed at shortstop, Johnson or Beckham could handle second base. Johnson also figures to get some starts at third base when Gonzalez wants to rest Adonis Garcia against some right-handed pitchers.