Prince’s versatility may be ticket back to majors

Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Josh Prince catches a fly ball hit by Houston Astros' Brandon Barnes during the fifth finning of a baseball game Wednesday, June 19, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Josh Prince catches a fly ball hit by Houston Astros' Brandon Barnes during the fifth finning of a baseball game Wednesday, June 19, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

NEW ORLEANS — Former Tulane shortstop Josh Prince is becoming a jack of all trades with the Nashville Sounds.

That sometimes can indicate a master of none, but Prince will take it, because that’s looking like his ticket to Major League Baseball.

“It’s been crazy, it’s been hectic,” said Prince, describing his first year in Triple-A baseball. “A lot of ups and downs, a lot of unknowns of where I’m going to be tomorrow, what am I going to be doing, what do they want me to do.

“But it’s been an exciting time.”

Prince was called up to the parent Milwaukee Brewers on the second day of the season and stayed up there for a month. He was used mostly as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement, though, and had just five at-bats, getting one hit.

Still, it was invaluable to get that taste. He learned a lot.

“It was quite an experience,” he said. “When I went up, of course, I didn’t know if I was going to be up there two days, a week, 15 days. They told me to keep playing hard and do what I do. I tried to show them I could help the team win.

“Watching those guys, I tried to pick their brains as much as possible about their approach to hitting and playing the field and how to make your body feel as good as possible while you’re trying to play every day.”

Last Wednesday, three days before the Sounds were to begin their series against the Zephyrs in New Orleans, Prince was called back up to the Brewers, while right fielder Norichika Aoki took a short leave to be with his wife, who had a baby. Prince played two games with Milwaukee, getting a start, but went 0-for-3.

He came back to the Sounds in time for the start of the series Saturday against the Zephyrs, and on Sunday hit a home run to left field leading off the fifth that gave Nashville a 1-0 lead.

“It was good to get one,” he said.

Although the Zephyrs still won, 2-1, Prince had owed them one. He was on a six-game hitting streak that ended when the Z’s came to town on June 14. He had been struggling ever since.

Prince his hitting just .243 with the Sounds, but Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin and Manager Ron Roenicke don’t seem too concerned. As evidenced by the call-ups, Prince is in their plans, which is to make him a super utility man.

Prince, who is on the 40-man roster, said learning all those positions isn’t the reason he isn’t hitter better, and that he just has to put in the work, which does take a lot of time. On Saturday morning, he was seen in the batting cage at Zephyr Stadium getting his swings.

Sounds manager Mike Guerrero said the Brewers know that Prince’s hitting will come around.

“He’s in his first year of Triple-A baseball, and it’s a tough league with some very good pitchers,” Guerrero said.

The Brewers switched Prince to center field last year at AA Huntsville, then really moved him around in spring training this year with the big team.

“That’s when I played left (field), center, right, shortstop, third (base) to try to make me into a utility fielder,” he said.

A shortstop and pitcher before, he said switching to center field was a big adjustment. One thing that has helped, he said, is that he played other sports growing up. At Barbe High School in Lake Charles, for instance, he played defensive back and wide receiver.

“As a defensive back, it’s very similar to center field, of following the ball, taking a route, knowing where the ball is going to be before it gets there,” he said.

Prince relishes having played on the Barbe team that won a state championship his senior year in 2006 and finished sixth in the nation. He signed with Texas and played in 39 of the Longhorn’s 51 games as a freshman, but decided to transfer to Tulane.

“Texas just wasn’t a good fit,” he said.

Being with the Green Wave was. His last year there, in 2009, Tulane reached the Tallahassee Regional, where it beat Florida and Bucknell before losing to Florida State and catcher Buster Posey.

“Josh had two really good years with us,” said Wave coach Rick Jones. “He is a shortstop with outstanding range and good hands, and he developed into a hitter who put pressure on the defense. He stole 52 bases his junior year.

“The reason the Brewers can move him to all those positions is that he’s such a good athlete.”

Prince was drafted in the third round by Milwaukee in ’09. Two Tulane teammates are in the big leagues. Pitcher Aaron Loup is in his second year with the Toronto Blue Jays, and left-hander Preston Claiborne, Prince’s roommate in college, is in his first year with the New York Yankees.

Prince said that doesn’t put any pressure on him to get to the bigs.

“Having been there already does,” he said. “Can’t wait to get back, and stay.”