Peraza settling in, finding stroke at plate

Young infielder's diligence following recent change in role is paying off

Peraza settling in, finding stroke at plate

CINCINNATI -- After underperforming all season at the plate, especially coming out of the All-Star break, Reds infielder Jose Peraza's role was reduced on July 21 to being a bench player, with Scooter Gennett elevated to starting second baseman.

Peraza handled the situation professionally and vowed to remain diligent as a hitter. After making some adjustments, he seems to have found his way again. In the Reds' 8-3 victory Wednesday over the Padres, Peraza was 2-for-3 with a walk and three RBIs.

"I hate to say he's back to normal, but that's really what we saw a lot of last year: much harder contact and balance in the batter's box," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "Those were a couple of things that were somewhat elusive at times this year. He's right back on top of his game, and he's playing really well up the middle."

As it turned out, Peraza's playing time wasn't reduced all that much with shortstop Zack Cozart on the disabled list due to a sore right quadriceps from July 26-Aug 5. But he has been able to put in the time to improve his hitting. Before games, he's often in the cages with coaches Don Long and Tony Jaramillo.

In the first 12 games of the second half (from July 14-26), Peraza batted .161 (5-for-31). In the 13 games since, he has hit .400 (16-for-40).

"I feel really good right now," Peraza said via translator Julio Morillo. "I'm just trying to fight in my at-bats. I don't want to give up at-bats. That's my focus right now, 100 percent, to take a really good at-bat. You're seeing the results right now."

During a two-out rally with the bases loaded in the first inning against Padres lefty Travis Wood, Peraza was down in a 1-2 count, but he worked it full before lining a two-run single into center field for a 2-0 Reds lead. In the sixth inning, again with two outs, he hit an RBI single to center field that scored Joey Votto.

Peraza's two-run single

In addition to the efforts made by Long, Jaramillo and Peraza, a fourth person has aided Peraza -- and he's on a different club. Peraza has been watching video of Rockies All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado and his approach.

"I'm trying to do something similar to Arenado," Peraza said. "I'm watching a lot of video of him and trying to do some things like that, but to make it my own.

"I'm trying to find a rhythm to have timing with the pitcher."

The changes have helped Peraza see the ball better and improve his ability to get on base. Over the first 95 games, he batted .246 with a .272 on-base percentage. According to Fangraphs.com, he chased 38.4 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone.

In Peraza's last 12 games entering Wednesday, that number has dropped to 23.4 percent.

"I'm working hard every day in the cage with Don and Tony," Peraza said in English. "It's pretty good."

From May 21-July 25, Peraza did not draw an unintentional walk in 197 plate appearances, the longest streak this season in the Majors. In his last 13 games, he has six walks with three strikeouts. Peraza started at shortstop Wednesday with Cozart given a night off.

"I mentioned to Don that I thought the quality of his at-bats and strike-zone command have greatly improved," Price said. "Don feels it has a lot to do with his base, his hitting base and being in that much better position to hit."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. 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.