Reds 2B prospect Peraza gets first taste of CF

Club may have fill-in if Hamilton isn't ready to start season

Reds 2B prospect Peraza gets first taste of CF

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Reds infielder Jose Peraza got his first five starts at shortstop and two more at second base. Peraza was filling at short until Zack Cozart was ready and at second since Brandon Phillips was playing every other game at the beginning.

On Monday, Peraza got his first start of this spring in center field vs. the Angels. Regular center fielder Billy Hamilton has been limited to one game because of a sore right shoulder. During the 10-2 loss, Peraza did not get any fly balls hit directly to him, but did field a couple of hits.

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"I've been practicing a lot. I've been doing all the drills and everything during the day. I've been working on it," Peraza said through translator Tomas Vera. "It doesn't feel different. I have to keep learning of course. I feel happy to play. The most important thing overall is to help the team."

Peraza, who turns 22 on April 30, was acquired from the Dodgers in December's three-team trade that sent Todd Frazier to the White Sox. The deal was made with eye on making Peraza the Reds' future second baseman -- a spot locked up by Phillips, who is under contract for two more years at $27 million. Peraza is the Reds' No. 5 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com.

For Peraza to make the team, the Reds will have to find almost regular at-bats for him. That will be a challenge in the infield with Cozart and Phillips expected to play every day. Peraza has 17 professional games logged in center. With Hamilton not a lock to be ready for the season, Peraza could be a natural replacement and has been working daily with third base/outfield coach Billy Hatcher.

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After a 0-for-7 start, Peraza has since been as advertised as a hitter. He is 10 for his past 16 -- including 2-for-3 with a run scored Monday.

"I have been feeling really well the last few days," Peraza said. "I've been working on a few things with [hitting coaches] Tony Jaramillo and Don Long, on the timing and the rhythm. That way I have some balance. Those things are coming along."

Offensively, Peraza projects to be at the top of the order and batted .302/.342/.387 in five Minor League seasons. With 33 steals last season, he's shown his speed and ability to take the extra base.

"He's done a really nice job," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "We felt like organizationally, this was a guy that could really hit and hit for high average and bunt and steal bases and do a lot of things with his speed. And that's the type of guy you want to get to the top of the order more so than the bottom."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.