BOSTON -- In a Zoom call on Tuesday, new Red Sox second baseman José Peraza promised to be the same plus defender for Boston that he always was in Cincinnati.
But he also seems to have a couple of things up his sleeve that could make him a more dangerous offensive player than he’s been in the past.
“If anything, I’m just bringing my defense from Cincinnati, because I’ve always been good at that,” Peraza said. “But offensively, I feel like I’m a completely different person, because I put in so much work during the offseason and then during camp and even during this pandemic while we were waiting just making, like I said, the minor tweaks. That’s probably the only thing is just offensively, I’m just a different person than I was back in Cincinnati.”
What is so different? Well, for starters, that new leg kick.
“What I really focused on, especially during the offseason in Miami, was just my leg kick,” Peraza said. “That’s probably one of the changes that I made was altering that, and that’s something I wasn’t even doing much in 2018 or 2019 when I was with Cincinnati.”
Given how drastic the change was to his setup, it’s understandable that it has taken a while for Peraza to perfect it. So while all the downtime in this baseball season wasn’t ideal for anyone, it could lead to Peraza being more ready to have a fast start at the plate.
“It’s also something that -- I’m just a little more confident. I’m seeing the pitches better as well,” Peraza said. “At first, when we first got back, I was just trying to get my rhythm going, but now I have the confidence where I’m going out there and just feel good about where I stand right now in terms of my hitting.”
And it’s not just the leg. The hands are also different.
“I made a couple of minor adjustments with my swing, especially with my hands, just trying to keep it a little bit more back, like a couple of centimeters,” Peraza said. “Not too much. But I did make a couple of changes that I’ll keep a little bit secret here.”
Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke mentioned -- unprompted one day last week -- how big of an improvement he noticed in Peraza in Summer Camp compared to Spring Training.
“His swings are unbelievable how good they are,” Roenicke said. “I thought the changes that he made in the three months that we were off really are benefiting him so far. We’ll see how it works once we start these games, but in batting practice, his load is completely different.
“I asked him if he was working with somebody. I know [hitting coach] Tim [Hyers] was staying in touch with him, and [assistant hitting coach] Pete [Fatse], but he’s doing some things with his load now to really help him. So with him, every day I go watch him and I’m so impressed with what he’s doing compared to what I saw when we were in Florida.”
Looking at Peraza’s numbers in 2019, perhaps it’s not all that surprising Cincinnati non-tendered him. In 141 games, he slashed .239/.285/.346 with six homers and 33 RBIs.
But it was just two years ago that Peraza hit .288 for the Reds with 85 runs, 182 hits, 31 doubles, 14 homers, 58 RBIs and 23 stolen bases.
“It was surprising [getting non-tendered], but at the same time, I’m just focused on the now,” Peraza said.
Put that type of player Peraza was in 2018 in a lineup that already includes J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Andrew Benintendi, Christian Vazquez and Alex Verdugo, and Peraza could quickly turn into a nuisance for opposing pitchers in the bottom third of the order.
“Yeah, I would say more of the 2018 [feeling] right now,” Peraza said. “Physically, I feel great. Mentally, especially, I feel great. I’m just really looking forward to this opportunity with the Red Sox that they’ve given me and I’m just really excited about what’s to come, but I’m ready to just start the season.”
That season will start on July 24 at home against the Orioles.
And nothing against Cincinnati, but Peraza is fired up to know that he’ll be playing half of his games in Fenway Park.
“I’m extremely excited to be here. I think it’s a good ballpark for me to hit in as well,” Peraza said. “That’s something that I feel like has given me a lot of confidence being able to go out there and have the type of progress that I’ve been making during this camp so far. I’m actually really excited to be playing here.”