Todd Peterson got the message.
Coaches bluntly called out his lack of conditioning at the end of his freshman season after a fatigued shoulder kept him from pitching in the College World Series.
Seeing the opportunity in front of him — Peterson is in line to begin the season as LSU’s Sunday starter as the Tigers break in a brand new weekend rotation — he devoted his summer, fall and winter to preparing himself to take the ball and run with it this spring.
“I’ve been working hard,” Peterson said Friday. “I don’t want to call it an offseason because there hasn’t been much time off. It’s more of a grind season. I’ve worked hard to get prepared for this, and I’m just trying to go out there and do my thing.”
Peterson detailed the diligent daily regiment he’s followed since the summer to work his way back into shape and the good graces of the coaching staff.
Every day of the grind season began with a 7:30 wake-up call and three-mile run around his hometown of Lake Mary, Fla. He’d then return home for a healthy breakfast before hitting the gym for a couple of hours.
Peterson would then eat lunch and recruit some friends to spend the afternoon playing basketball or throwing a football around. Then back to the gym for an hour or two of core work before dinner. Afterword he’d hit the hot tub to loosen up a bit and get another three-mile jog in before calling it a day.
“It was a busy offseason, as you guys would call it,” Peterson laughed.
The daily workout regimen was only part of what could be a career-altering re-dedication to his craft. Peterson also taught himself how to cook and balance out meal preparations to get away from the fast food diet that he fell into during his first year of living on his own.
“We’re in Louisiana. There’s a lot of good food, so I don’t know where to start,” Peterson said. “Canes was huge for me last year. I’ve got to stay away from that. I can’t be doing that. It’s about cooking food and meal prepping throughout the week to stay under control with everything.”
Today he freely admits that he didn’t know how to do laundry on his own when he first arrived at LSU, much less manage the rigorous time demands of balancing school and baseball.
All of that contributed to what became a freshman season of missed opportunities.
“I thought I figured it out during my senior year of high school, but last year I learned a lot. It was a big learning year for me,” he said. “Last year it kind of got away from me, but I think I’ve learned from that and put a lot of things together. I just feel better. I feel more alive, more awake.
“I want to get out on that mound and show these coaches the Todd Peterson that they recruited.”
The fruits of his labor are already tangible to those who’ve watched him pitch lately.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri said the better-conditioned sophomore right hander has thrown the ball as well as anyone on the team so far this spring after putting together an encouraging fall.
“I’m not so sure Todd Peterson hasn’t looked better than (Caleb) Gilbert and (Zack) Hess,” Mainieri said. “It’s real encouraging to have your Sunday guy throwing like that.”
The difference is not rocket science. Peterson’s legs and core are much stronger than they were last season, allowing him to maintain his low-90s fastball without putting so much stress on his arm.
He’s also appeared more focused and receptive to what LSU pitching coach Alan Dunn is telling him, Mainieri said. Peterson has cleaned up some things in his mechanics and worked hard to develop his changeup by augmenting his grip to put more sink and movement on the off-speed pitch.
Peterson knows his work isn’t finished by any stretch of the imagination. He said the offseason grind was more about getting back the progress he’d squandered in the second half of last season.
LSU tried to develop him as a fourth starter last May, and he was tapped to start the Southeastern Conference Tournament opener before getting suspended for a violation of team rules. Mainieri has said he would’ve started the College World Series Finals opener against Florida, too, were it not for the nagging shoulder fatigue.
“It was really tough,” Peterson said of his postseason relegation. “You look at the run we made and being there, how exciting that was, I felt a little off because I couldn’t contribute to the team because I wasn’t healthy. I wasn’t in the shape I’m in now. But this year I’m hungry.”
Just not hungry for fried chicken anymore.