Sports

Pederson enjoying his first days as a major league player

 

Joc Pederson is taking nothing for granted. He knew what he had to do to reach the major leagues and he knows he has to work that much harder to stay.

The Palo Alto High grad found himself in the middle of the National League West Division race when the Los Angeles Dodgers called him up as the rosters were expanded in September.

"It's what this is all about," Pederson said. "This is a special group of guys who have a chance to win it all."

It did not take Pederson long to make a contribution, singling up the middle against Washington Nationals' pitcher Doug Fister in the bottom of the second inning of a game the Dodgers won, 4-1, on Sept. 2.

"It's always been my dream," Pederson said before the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants series finale Sunday at AT&T Park. "But there are no guarantees. I have to continue to work hard."

Pederson spent part of his time before Sunday's game taking care of his legs, the part of his body that helped him achieve a rare feat with the Albuquerque Isotopes.

He stole 30 bases and hit 33 home runs to become the first Pacific Coast League player to record a 30-30 season in 80 years and the fourth overall, joining an elite group that also includes Frank Demaree, Lefty O'Doul and Tony Lazzeri.

Pederson had no idea of the rarity of his feat until he hit his 30th homer and still needed a few stolen bases to reach the milestone.

"There was some added pressure because everybody was talking about it," he said. "It was a big relief when I did it."

He earned the PCL's Most Valuable Player Award, was named to the postseason all-star team and won Rookie of the Year honors, presented to a player in his first year at the Triple-A level.

Pederson has been promoted in each of his minor league seasons, with his recent addition to the major league roster the shining achievement.

"I've been fortunate to have worked with good coaches at every level," Pederson said. "I've put in a lot of work and time to develop different aspects of my game."

His latest hitting coach is Mark McGwire.

"It's a special opportunity," said Pederson. "He's one of the best hitters ever."

Dodgers' manager Don Mattingly also was considered one of the best of his era playing with the New York Yankees.

Named the top prospect in the Dodgers' organization and the 34th best prospect overall, Pederson was not expected to play right away. Mattingly told reporters he'd use him in late-inning situations like any other call-up.

Two weeks into his major league career, Pederson has appeared in nine games and played all three outfield positions. He has two hits over his first 17 at bats and scored his first major-league run during Saturday night's 17-0 rout of the Giants.

"It's cool to come back and play in the stadium where I grew up watching games," said Pederson, who anticipated at least 50 family members and friends in attendance on Sunday.

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