JUPITER, Fla. -- The Nationals are looking for a center fielder and Eury Perez wants to show that he can be their man.
While he is not expected to make the Opening Day roster, Perez is trying to prove that he belongs in the big leagues soon.
"I know they need a starting center fielder and I want to show them that I have the ability to do that," Perez said. "Even if I don't get it this year, I want them to know about me and know that I can do what they need. I'm working hard to show them that."
Perez hit .283 and stole 45 bases last season for Class A Potomac. His success earned the 21-year-old an invitation to big league camp, where he has caught the attention of several in the Nationals' organization.
"He's made some adjustments," manager Davey Johnson said. "He had a long, looping swing. [Mark] DeRosa would call it a dip in his swing. But I saw improvements from him from two years ago to last year to this year, and he looks awfully good this year. "
Johnson put Perez at the top of a very talented group of outfielders when discussing how much he has improved over the winter.
"There are a lot of guys who are very much improved in our system and I think he was leading the class," Johnson said. "It's his first time in spring and I think he picked up 14 pounds, and it looked like all muscle. Michael Taylor, Destin Hood and all those guys have shown improvement, but Eury probably has shown the most."
Perez, who was 6-for-12 before going 0-for-2 with two strikeouts on Sunday, credits some of his early spring success to feeling comfortable in big league camp. While some players feel out of place among big leaguers, Perez says he fits right in.
"I have a few friends in camp so I have some guys that have helped me fit in," Perez said. "Knowing people and having guys to talk to and spend time with has helped me feel more comfortable and made me feel loose. I think it has really helped me play better just because I feel comfortable here."