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Outfield prospect LaMarre sharpens defense during BP

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Considering that the Reds have stressed defense as a top priority in recent seasons, outfield prospect Ryan LaMarre should fit in whenever he reaches the Majors.

LaMarre, a center fielder who is in his first big league camp as a non-roster player, has been rated the organization's best defensive outfielder by Baseball America each of the past three years.

"Defense is something I take pride in and work on," LaMarre said on Saturday. "It's something you can bring every day. You might go through slumps offensively or some rough patches. But defense should be there every day. You try to do little things that help the team -- save a run, throwing a guy out. At the end of the season, it adds up to some wins."

LaMarre, 24, tries to spend one or two batting practice groups each day testing his limits in the outfield.

"I'll try to come in as far as I can to see what balls I can chase down over my head or some techniques on throwing the ball or working on cutoffs," LaMarre said. "I try to eliminate the tail on the ball. It only takes 5-10 minutes every day, but it's one of those things I feel like there is no excuse for [defense] not to be there. I like to make it my strong suit."

A second-round Draft pick in 2010 out of the University of Michigan, LaMarre batted .263 with five home runs, 32 RBIs and 30 steals at Double-A Pensacola in 2012. He has looked to veteran outfielders like Jay Bruce and Chris Heisey for advice the last couple of years and spent time with Bruce on the club's winter caravan last month.

"Jay has been pretty open the last couple of years that anytime I needed something, don't be afraid to ask him," LaMarre said.

LaMarre started in right field in Bruce's place against the Indians on Saturday and was 0-for-2.

To help bring his offense to the level of his defense, LaMarre spent time during the offseason in Sarasota, Fla., with Minor League hitting coordinator Ryan Jackson.

"I'd like to be a little more consistent and a little more dynamic," LaMarre said. "When I was at school, I hit in the middle of the order and was more consistent. [With Jackson,] I got into a routine and I feel like I am hitting the ball a lot harder. I'm more consistent. Hopefully I will take that once the green light hits and keep it going all year."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon.