Tanner Peters, a 16th-round pick in the 2011 amateur draft out of UNLV, has quietly put together a standout summer in his first full stint with a full-season club. When the 22-year-old earned the win with seven shutout innings in Game One of the Burlington Bees' playoff series against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, it marked another step in the right direction for a pitcher who underwent serious hip surgery last year.
The Burlington pitcher had an operation to repair a torn labrum in his right hip on November 30th, and remained in Arizona for the duration of extended spring training this year.
"They had to go in and fix it up," said Peters, who said the injury had bothered him since his college season.
"I had a little bone issue too, so they had to shave that down as well as fix my labrum. It was a six-month rehab. It was a good amount of time, but it wasn't like a Tommy John or shoulder.
"When I first got [to Burlington] things were kind of shaky. I was getting everything back into the flow of pitching after surgery in the offseason. But lately things have been real good and I'm throwing all three of my pitches for more strikes. I feel healthy."
Peters entered the Midwest League Playoffs on a hot streak with five consecutive quality starts. Despite dropping two of three decisions during that stretch, he allowed just six earned runs on 30 hits over his last 32 regular season innings while posting a 33:5 K:BB ratio.
While a clean bill of health has certainly helped matters, Peters says a quality third pitch has paid huge dividends as he's advanced to a higher level of the minors.
"Everything comes down to the fastball and command, throwing a lot of early strikes," he said. "Plus, being able to throw the curveball for a strike has helped me a lot. Showing hitters that I can command a third pitch to go with my fastball and change-up has helped a lot.
"The first time through the lineup, with a guy that's never seen me, I can get away with a [first-pitch] fastball. But later in the game, you've got to start working in change-ups and breaking balls for first pitch strikes."
During the regular season, Peters appeared in 14 games with the Bees – including 12 starts – and compiled 68.1 innings of work. His 2-6 record is certainly not a reflection of the work he's done in the Midwest League.
Prior to promoting Peters to the Midwest Leage, the A's shipped Peters to short-season Vermont. He appeared in two New York-Penn League games and allowed a pair of runs over three innings while striking out seven.
Just getting back out to an affiliate and away from Arizona was huge for Peters, who was held out from live pitching for six months.
"By the time I came into spring training, I was already halfway through my rehab and it was more aggressive when I got with the A's," he said.
"I was able to run, throw and get back into the swing of baseball. Really, it was all about getting range of motion back in my hip and getting the strength back to play again. Since I've been here and healthy, we're focusing more on the pitching aspect."
While Peters is back to a clean bill of health, Oakland coaches continue to work with him on preventing any future hip issues.
"It's a mechanical issue with my back foot, being able to clear my hips more," Peters said. "My hips stay closed when I throw, so being able to release my back hip will free everything up so I don't get as much pull with my tendons.
"It had gotten that way over time. My last year of college I threw 120 innings, which is quite a bit. I felt it after my last start of college, but then I continued to throw all summer with it."
In order to build Peters' innings back up so that he can start for the entire 2013 season, the A's will send him to their fall Instructional League camp.
"Because I started late in the year, they want me to go down there and throw as much as possible," Peters said.
"For next year I'll have something to build off of. We usually add about 30 or 40 innings a year, so if I can get up to about 80 this year then I'll be able to throw 120."