Perez in the mix at 2B for Brewers
PHOENIX (AP) — Hernan Perez is going to play somewhere at some point.
With Milwaukee adding outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich over the winter, It looks as if Perez might see a drop-off in playing time. But manager Craig Counsell isn’t worried.
“Every year he’s on the team, you say ‘I don’t really know how this will work,’” Counsell said. “But when you play seven positions, it works. It works because he can play seven positions. You don’t have to have it figured out with him.”
The 26-year-old Perez started at seven different positions while appearing in a career-best 136 games last season. He even pitched an inning. He also hit .259 with 14 homers and 51 RBIs.
Perez came up through Detroit’s minor league system as an infielder and had never made an appearance in the outfield until 2016, when the Brewers began transitioning him into a utility role.
He played 88 games in the outfield last year, including 34 starts in left primarily while Ryan Braun was injured.
While the 14 homers were a career high, some of Perez’s numbers were down slightly from the previous season. He batted .272 with 56 RBIs and 34 steals in 2016, compared to 13 stolen bases last year.
Perez attributed part of the decline to sporadic playing time. It’s not a complaint, but rather a reality he tries to manage the best he can.
“When you play every day, you can make more adjustments,” Perez said Thursday.
Milwaukee’s new outfield alignment could put Perez in the infield more, primarily at second base where he played while coming up through the Tigers’ system.
Jonathan Villar and Eric Sogard are expected to split time at second like they did last season.
Villar began the year as the starter but was never able to duplicate the success of his breakout 2016 campaign, when he played his way into the Brewers’ long-term plans by batting .285 with 19 homers, 63 RBIs and a major league-best 62 stolen bases as Milwaukee’s starting shortstop.
Villar, who turned down a multiyear contract after moving to second to accommodate top prospect Orlando Arcia, slumped out of the gate and never found a way out.
“He’s capable of (repeating) 2016,” Counsell said. “That’s why you give players like that chances — because he’s certainly capable of something (good).”
Sogard and Neil Walker, who came over in an August trade with the Mets, took over and Villar was a non-factor down the stretch, making just one start in the final month.
Milwaukee had interest in bringing back Walker after he hit .267 in 38 games, but decided instead to stick with its current group for now.
“Eric’s there, Jonny’s there, Hernan’s everywhere,” Counsell said. “We’ve got three players, and one of them steps forward and produces a lot or they share it in a way that makes the position productive.”
NOTES: The Brewers announced that former center fielder Geoff Jenkins will be honored in the team’s Walk of Fame at Miller Park. Milwaukee’s first-round pick in the 1995 draft, Jenkins hit 221 home runs in 10 seasons with the team, earning an All-Star selection in 2003. The team also announced that former general managers Harry Dalton and Doug Melvin and first baseman Prince Fielder would be added to Miller Park’s Wall of Honor this season.