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Peterson flexing muscles in bid for roster spot

Braves prospect states case with homers in back-to-back games
MLB.com @mlbbowman

LAKELAND, Fla. -- If there were any lingering concerns about Dustin Peterson's left hand, they likely suddenly disappeared, much like the two baseballs the Braves' prospect put into orbit the past two games.

Peterson, the organization's No. 16 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, enhanced his bid to make a late run for an Opening Day roster spot with the monstrous homer he drilled during the sixth inning of Sunday afternoon's 6-3 loss to the Tigers. The two-run shot off right-hander Victor Alcantara soared out of sight after passing over Joker Marchant Stadium's center-field batter's-eye screen.

LAKELAND, Fla. -- If there were any lingering concerns about Dustin Peterson's left hand, they likely suddenly disappeared, much like the two baseballs the Braves' prospect put into orbit the past two games.

Peterson, the organization's No. 16 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, enhanced his bid to make a late run for an Opening Day roster spot with the monstrous homer he drilled during the sixth inning of Sunday afternoon's 6-3 loss to the Tigers. The two-run shot off right-hander Victor Alcantara soared out of sight after passing over Joker Marchant Stadium's center-field batter's-eye screen.

"Who hit that?" Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said, halting a conversation with reporters as soon as he caught a glimpse of the home run on a clubhouse television.

During Saturday's win against the Pirates, Peterson also showed his tremendous power when he drilled a homer that soared above the left-field seats at Bradenton's LECOM Park. His two prodigious shots followed Braves manager Brian Snitker's broad proclamation that there was plenty of time for players to make a late push for a roster spot.

Video: ATL@PIT: Peterson crushes two-run homer to left field

Snitker's response came as he was explaining that Peterson had only gotten four at-bats from March 2-9 because there were other outfielders who needed to be evaluated.

"You never know, there's always guys that can get hot and you never know," Snitker said after Sunday's game. "The left field job is still open. The bench isn't solidified. I think the biggest thing with Dustin was getting him healthy."

Peterson has not been bothered by the lingering effects of the broken left hamate bone he suffered during the early portion of last year's Grapefruit League season. Looking back, the outfielder believes he might have returned to action too soon. But after struggling last year with Triple-A Gwinnett, he spent the winter bulking up and gaining physical strength that should aid his bid to reach the Majors this year.

Until the Braves' top prospect, Ronald Acuna Jr., makes his big league debut, potentially in mid-April, they have a few options for the left-field position. Lane Adams and Preston Tucker could form a platoon. There's also a chance Peterson could be given the job on an everyday basis or be deemed a better option than Adams to serve as the right-handed portion of the platoon.

Had Peterson not fractured his hand last year, he likely would have received his first call to the Majors when Matt Kemp was placed on the disabled list during the regular season's second week.

"It's a shame that he got hurt because who knows what his story would be right now, given the way he was swinging the bat last year when he got hurt," Snitker said. "When Matt went down, I'm 90 percent sure [Peterson] would have been the guy."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Roster battle
As Peter Moylan navigated his way through Sunday's sixth inning, he maintained his status as a favorite to open the season in Atlanta's bullpen.

Moylan surrendered his first run of the year when Leonys Martin produced a two-out inside-the-park home run in the frame. The veteran Australian reliever is targeted to primarily face right-handed hitters during the season. He has retired each of the eight right-handers he has faced and allowed hits in three of the six at-bats lefties have tallied against him.

If Moylan and Rule 5 Draft pick Anyelo Gomez remain the favorites for two of three available bullpen spots, the final spot could go to a number of different long-relief candidates -- Aaron Blair, Matt Wisler, Lucas Sims and Chase Whitley.

Injury report
The Braves will continue to evaluate Luiz Gohara. But Snitker is already conceding that the big left-handed starter will be sidelined for an extended period as he recovers from the sprained left ankle suffered as he completed a fielding drill on Friday.

Gohara's activity will be restricted for at least the next two weeks. When he's cleared to resume participating in baseball activities, he'll essentially begin what will amount to a complete Spring Training's worth of preparation as a left groin strain limited his activity through the first couple weeks of camp.

The best-case scenario seems to be Gohara joining Atlanta's rotation during the first half of May. But for now the Braves aren't putting a timetable on his return. Scott Kazmir and Wisler are the top bids for the rotation spot that had been earmarked for Gohara.

Up next
Sean Newcomb is scheduled to make his fourth start when the Braves host the Phillies on Monday at 6:05 p.m. ET. Newcomb will attempt to solidify his status as a favorite for one of the two available rotation spots. Freeman and Ender Inciarte are expected to be in the lineup as Atlanta plays under the lights for the second time this year.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Dustin Peterson