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Reds prospect Senzel learning ropes at SS

MLB.com @m_sheldon

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Saturday's 5-2 loss against the Mariners marked the sixth Cactus League game, and third start, at shortstop for Nick Senzel, ranked as the Reds' No. 1 prospect by MLB Pipeline. That doesn't count the time Senzel spent at the once relatively unfamiliar position before Spring Training and during camp workouts.

Senzel played shortstop in high school and sometimes in college. But since he was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, he only played third base professionally. With Eugenio Suarez currently locked in at third base for the Reds, Senzel has gotten time at both spots on the left side of the infield.

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GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Saturday's 5-2 loss against the Mariners marked the sixth Cactus League game, and third start, at shortstop for Nick Senzel, ranked as the Reds' No. 1 prospect by MLB Pipeline. That doesn't count the time Senzel spent at the once relatively unfamiliar position before Spring Training and during camp workouts.

Senzel played shortstop in high school and sometimes in college. But since he was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, he only played third base professionally. With Eugenio Suarez currently locked in at third base for the Reds, Senzel has gotten time at both spots on the left side of the infield.

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"He's working hard," first base/infield coach Freddie Benavides said. "It's not something that's just going to happen overnight. Being a Major League shortstop is something that guys have been doing since they were young. There are still a lot of things involved with the footwork, places he needs to be. But from day one to where he is now, there's been lots of improvement."

Benavides has been pleased about how Senzel has been willing to learn on the job.

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"Very coachable," Benavides said. "He's a sponge."

Senzel, 22, has worked with both Benavides and Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin this spring. Because the position requires more infield responsibility and movement, it's been tougher to make the shift from third base to shortstop than it would have been if Senzel started out as a pro shortstop and moved to third base like Suarez did a couple of years ago.

However, Senzel felt like he's getting the hang of the position and has enjoyed the opportunity.

"I feel like it's good. Every day is getting better. I will continue to keep working," said Senzel, who is ranked as the No. 7 overall prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline.

Video: SEA@CIN: Price on Senzel's future role with the Reds

Against Seattle, Senzel displayed some acumen on a tough ground ball up the middle, robbing Taylor Motter of a hit in the third inning. Senzel went to his left and fielded the bouncing ball behind second base and threw to first while on the move for the out.

Before Spring Training, the Reds initially planned to expose to Senzel to up to five positions in camp -- third base, shortstop, second base and both corner-outfield spots. That didn't materialize, however.

"You can't do that. The game's not that easy to take a young man that's primarily been third base and move him all over the field," manager Bryan Price said. "We've primarily kept him on the left side of the infield."

Senzel has also played three games at third base, including two starts. He's committed one fielding error this spring at shortstop and one throwing error at third base.

Video: SEA@CIN: Don Long on Senzel's approach at the plate

"No matter what he does at shortstop here or during the season if he stays there, it will always help him if he has to go back to third base," Benavides said. "It's helping his footwork and his hands tremendously."

The expectation has been that Senzel would likely begin the regular season at Triple-A Louisville. That's partially because of not wanting to start the service-time clock and buying an extra season of club control before free agency. Also, there isn't an open spot in the lineup.

Jose Peraza is opening 2018 as the Reds' starting shortstop and will get the chance to prove himself. Price said the decision of where Senzel would play in the Minors would be a group determination among himself, general manager Dick Williams and player development director Jeff Graupe.

"I think inevitably where the need is where he'll find the most work. That's yet to be defined completely," Price said.

Senzel felt, if need be, he could step up and play shortstop in the Major Leagues right now.

"I'm just learning the position. We've taken a lot of reps and I'm starting to get a lot more comfortable," Senzel said. "Especially the in-game reps, it's helped out a ton. The more reps I get, the more comfortable I feel out there."

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.

Cincinnati Reds, Nick Senzel