Versatile Perez an asset for Brewers

Counsell likes what he's seen from utility man this season

Versatile Perez an asset for Brewers

MILWAUKEE -- Hernan Perez believes in second chances, and he's being rewarded for it.

The Brewers utility man is in the midst of a season that has caught the eye of his manager Craig Counsell, thanks in part to signing a Minor League deal with the Crew 10 days after the club removed him from the 40-man roster.

Perez entered Saturday batting .285 with five home runs while spending time at six defensive positions for Milwaukee, including a 10-for-21 start to the second half that includes one homer, seven RBIs and a 1.214 OPS.

In 2015, the Brewers claimed Perez off waivers from Detroit, where he was once a top prospect but exhausted his Minor League options after struggling in limited action. He batted .270 in 90 games, but posted just a .646 OPS with Milwakee last year. When the time came to sign with a club this offseason, Perez selected the Brewers.

"I think it's all possible because, when I got out of Detroit, I got the opportunity here," Perez said. "So when they took me off the roster here, I said, 'They picked me up last year, so I'm going to sign right back with them.' I knew that third base was open."

The Brewers went on to trade for Aaron Hill, who staked a claim to the hot corner job, and other offseason transactions -- such as acquiring Colin Walsh in the Rule 5 Draft -- blocked Perez from the Opening Day roster. He opened up the season in Triple-A, where a .339 start to the season propelled him back to Milwaukee.

"I didn't make the team, but I always stayed positive and did my job in Triple-A and they called me up again," Perez said.

When a reporter asked Counsell what improvements in Perez's game had most impressed him, the skipper listed two answers: improved at-bats and positional versatility.

"The quality of his at-bats, especially the last week, has really been fun to see," Counsell said. "It's changed. It doesn't always result in a hit necessarily, but it results in him seeing another pitch, getting to a 3-2 count. And if you put yourself in that situation, where you foul off an extra pitch every at-bat or you lay off a tough pitch every at-bat, you're going to have more success.

"You're going to get a pitch to hit the next pitch, or the pitcher's going to throw a [poorly located pitch] the next pitch. He's doing a better job of getting himself another pitch in the at-bat. That's what I think has been a little bit of a difference this year."

Perez has never been prone to draw walks (his career-high BB% in the Minors was 6.8 percent), and he has only taken six walks in 168 plate appearances this year.

"It's still a place where there's certainly room for growth," Counsell said. "I don't think he's going to be a high walk player, but he doesn't have to be when you can drive a baseball like he can and he's started to show. You don't always have to be, you can get to your production in a different way."

Perez made his first career start in the outfield just over one month ago on June 12, but he has become a regular in right field when the Brewers face a left-handed starter. And with Hill traded to the Red Sox earlier in July, Perez finds himself in the lineup at third base, as well.

"In addition to that, his positional versatility has become a real asset," Counsell said. "This is a guy that can, right now, play five positions on the field. And there might be more ahead of him. When you get that versatility, it's easier to find a spot to put your name in the lineup."

Curt Hogg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Milwaukee. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.