Bucs finally find lefty batting-practice pitcher
Peters pitched for Pittsburgh in Majors from 1996-2000
PITTSBURGH -- In 2000, the last of Chris Peters' five seasons with the Pirates, he would regularly pass the construction site of PNC Park on his way to Three Rivers Stadium. Following that season, he became a free agent and signed with Montreal.
The Expos made their first visit to Pittsburgh's new showcase of a ballpark on June 22, 2001. Peters was released by Montreal on May 30. But he has finally made his way to PNC Park's pitching mound, as the left-handed batting practice pitcher Buccos manager Clint Hurdle had sought for four years.
"It's really nice," said Peters, 43, the father of four kids, aged 3 to 16.
He had just finished delivering a couple hundred pitches to players who soon would be facing the White Sox Carlos Rodon.
"Experience, everything … spin [breaking balls], fastball," Hurdle said of Peters' assets. "Could not have asked for any more. It was time; we've been talking about it for four years."
Peters grew up and still lives in nearby Peters Township, works his day job across the Clemente Bridge, and has been an active member of the club's alumni. According to Peters, a club official contacted him during Spring Training about pitching batting practice, but he wasn't brought on board until this ongoing sequence of four southpaws lined up to face the Bucs.
"I've been throwing. It's not like I haven't picked up a ball," said Peters who, in addition to working for a parking company, does personal instruction and coaches a pair of teams in his hometown. "I think they knew I lived in the area and used to pitch here, so someone figured out it may not be a bad idea.
"I've been with the alumni, I do a lot of charity work with the Pirates, I've done camps here. They mentioned a couple of years ago bringing someone in to throw curveballs, to Pedro [Alvarez] mainly. I told them I'd do whatever they want me to do, but they never brought me in."
Peters had a lifetime record of 19-25 with a 4.81 ERA in his five-and-a-half seasons, and went 8-10 for the 1998 Bucs.
Now that he's back on a big league mound, his mission is to inflate hitters' confidence, not crush it.
"I've got to be able to throw strikes, number one. You can't be hitting people," Peters said of a good batting-practice pitcher's qualifications. "And you've got to have an arm that can handle throwing a couple hundred pitches, maybe on back-to-back days."