Before being drafted in the second round last year, Blake Perkins -- a right-handed hitter -- decided to take batting practice from the left side during a workout for Nationals representatives.
"I went and worked out for the Nationals and I took batting practice left-handed and I told them, 'If this gets me drafted higher, I'd love to try it out.'" he said. "They were interested in [me switch-hitting] and I was serious about it. I've been working my hardest to get to the point where I feel comfortable. It's come a long way since we first started."
Perkins spent last summer hitting right-handed in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. He entered this spring with instruction from the big league brass to transition to switch-hitting full-time, which he said has led to some nervousness to start the season.
The Nationals' No. 11 prospect broke loose on Thursday night, going 4-for-5 with a career-high three RBIs as Class A Short Season Auburn blanked Aberdeen, 4-0, at Ripken Stadium.
"Last night, I didn't get in any hits from the right side. So we looked up the video and saw that I was doing some things little differently," Perkins said. "I just tried to stay consistent at the plate with my hands in a good position, and I saw the ball a lot better and was able to get to the pitches I should be able to get to."
The 19-year-old outfielder led off the game with a single, then singled again to drive in Angelo La Bruna in the second inning. He ground another single in the fifth before plating Nick Banks and David Kerian with his career-high fourth hit with two outs in the seventh. Perkins struck out in his final at-bat in the ninth.
"Early on, being a leadoff hitter, I know I'm going to get a lot of fastballs," he said. "The first two at-bats, I was able to attack the fastball. In my second at-bat, they threw me a couple of changeups with a runner on, so I knew that later in the game they may want to attack with that again. My fourth at-bat [in the seventh inning], I was up, 2-0, and they gave me a fastball and I missed. I was ready for something off-speed if they left it on the plate and was able to drive in those runs. I try to attack early in the count and get a feel for how they're pitching me."
Perkins started the season with a 1-for-9 stretch but is 8-for-18 (.444) with three RBIs and four runs scored in his last four games for the Doubledays. That's pushed his average up to .333.
"I think it being my first real season [and switch-hitting], there were some nerves," he said. "I was getting really tense at the plate, so our hitting coach [Mark Harris] talked to me and calmed me down. After those first few games, I loosened up a little bit and trusted that all the work I had done up to that point worked for a reason."
Perkins said in the past, before being drafted out of Verrado High School in Buckeye, Arizona, he'd tinkered around with switch-hitting but never deployed it full-time during game action. It's been difficult trying to adapt to professional pitching while learning to hit from both sides, he added.
"Since I just started switch-hitting full-time this year, I've really had to work on my path to the ball left-handed and right-handed since it was my first time seeing professional pitching," he added. "I have to keep my hands in a good position to drive the ball. It more or less seems that when I'm not hitting well, I'm not getting my hands into a strong position. That's the biggest thing that I've had to work on since it's the first time I've had to do this on a daily basis."
Playing in the stadium that bears his Hall of Fame father's name, Auburn designated hitter Ryan Ripken singled and plated a run with a forceout.
Doubledays starter Tyler Watson (1-0) yielded three hits and two walks while striking out five over five innings and Francys Peguero fanned five over the next three frames.
Aberdeen's Travis Seabrooke (1-1) gave up two runs on five hits with one strikeout over six innings.