After struggling in Triple-A a season ago, Ciofrone has done nothing but hit this season for the Portland Beavers.
Batting primarily out of the two-hole in the lineup, Ciofrone has seen his bat consistently in the lineup – seeing time at four different positions.
He has set career-highs in runs scored and homers – citing more aggressive behavior and a steady approach that have led to the increased output, accomplished in fewer games than he has played in any previous season.
In the past few seasons, we have seen you in the outfield and making a lot of progress, particularly in left field. This season, you have seen more time at third base than at any time previously. I know you have played third in the past and also saw time at second – what is the comfort level like for you at third?
Peter Ciofrone: Well, now that I have been playing there every single day – at first, it was an adjustment because, like you said, I was playing the outfield for the last two years before moving me to third. In the beginning, it was an adjustment with my footwork. Now that I am there everyday, I feel like I have been playing there the last couple of years.
I feel really comfortable and know what I am doing with my footwork. I am taking a lot of ground balls to get my feet prepared to throw the ball. I still take my fly balls in the outfield because you never know.
Is that a bonus for you to be able to play so many positions?
Peter Ciofrone: I think it is definitely a bonus for me. If you have two similar guys but me who can play the infield as well – that is a plus for my career.
I have always been that guy that can play the infield and outfield. I am taking the approach of wherever I can get into the lineup and help the team win – that is what I am going to do. If it is playing third base, left field, right field, as long as my bat is in the lineup, I am happy.
What is the biggest thing you need to improve upon to become a better defender at third base?
Peter Ciofrone: My lateral movement – the first step to the ball. Now that I am over there everyday, my footwork has gotten a lot better. There is always room for improvement with everything you do in this game. I feel my arm strength is ok – you can always work on that too. I would say moving lateral, side-to-side would be the biggest thing.
Your 27-game hitting streak is tied for the longest mark in the Pacific Coast League this season. What was going so well during that stretch of games?
Peter Ciofrone: Staying with my approach. I was going up to the plate and getting good pitches to hit and not really swinging at balls and then getting a good piece of the bat on the ball. Of course, you need some luck in a streak like that, and I definitely had some. It was fun while it lasted.
I didn’t even know I had a streak until about 20 games in to be honest. Someone mentioned to me that I had broke the Portland Beavers record. As the streak continued, all my teammates were getting involved and I got some attention from the media. It was definitely a fun ride.
In previous seasons, your walk-to-strikeout rate has been pretty close. This year there is a slightly bigger disparity between those numbers and we are also seeing more power. Do you feel like you are being more aggressive early in the count this year?
Peter Ciofrone: Yes, I would say I am a lot more aggressive this year. In other years, I was working the count a little more. I have been hitting in the two-hole in Triple-A this year and you have to be aggressive. They don’t want you to get on base for the three, four, five hitters.
I have been taking that approach whether it is the first pitch or second pitch – I am going to be aggressive. I am going to be ready to hit from the first pitch of the first at-bat.
My strikeouts are up and my walks are down compared to other years but by my other numbers are up as well. I would rather take more strikeouts if the average and homers go up than vice versa.
A bunch of those home runs have come with the bases empty – especially early in the year. Is that a product of the two-hole?
Peter Ciofrone: Oh yea, hitting in the two-hole with the pitcher in the nine spot and the leadoff hitter. I think after seven home runs, I remember looking up at the scoreboard, I had like seven RBIs. They were all solo home runs. As of late, I had the three-run homers a week ago and hit a grand slam. I got my RBIs in there.
You got to taste Triple-A last season and saw some struggles. How much have you progressed from last year to this year to make you ready for the challenges?
Peter Ciofrone: I have matured a lot. Being in Triple-A, you have a lot of veteran guys. You can pick their brain. I have talked to a lot of guys about their approach and what they are looking for.
From last year, San Antonio is a tough place to hit. The wind is blowing in everyday and I got out of my approach last year, swinging at bad pitches and never really got into a groove like I have this year. I was able to get into a nice groove this year and have stayed with it, stayed with my approach, get my early work in, and thank God I have had a decent season.
You have always been a solid hitter who would bat for a high average. We have talked in the past about the power numbers in the past. Seeing it come to fruition has to be rewarding.
Peter Ciofrone: Definitely. I hit 10 home runs last year and hit 14 this year and have had a lot less at-bats this year because of injury.
It goes back to my approach. I am young but have been playing this game for a while and think I am just maturing with my approach. I am getting stronger too. I am finally able to get some lift on some balls and turn on that inside pitches – not that I haven’t in other years, but it seems easier to get the bat head out. It feels great to be honest.
It has always been, ‘Pete, can you hit a home run?’
‘Yea, I can hit my 15’ and finally I am almost there this year. It feels good. I think every single year in my career my home runs have gone up. So, hopefully, next year we will be looking at 20 home runs.
We have rosters expanding in the next week or two. Do you ever think about the fact that you put yourself in contention to get a September call-up to the big leagues?
Peter Ciofrone: You don’t want to look into it too much. Obviously, you can only control what you can control. What I can control is how I play on the field. I am not making the calls up top in the front office.
Hopefully, this year I have pushed the envelope a little bit and opened their eyes a little bit where they say, ‘Hey, this is a good player.’ Hopefully, I did that. Every season, I look to stay healthy and control what I can control – the rest will fall into place.
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