Every so often, and more often than ever it seems in recent weeks, Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton shows there’s a lot more to him than speed. He unleashed a throw Friday against the Phillies in an otherwise forgettable 8-0 loss that proved his arm rivals his legs.
Chase Utley hit a fly ball to center. Ben Revere tagged at third. Hamilton had no chance to throw him out. He tried anyway. It was closer than anyone expected.
“It was a great throw, but it tailed off,” Hamilton said.
The next day, Hamilton combined his speed and arm strength to help the Reds record two outs at home plate. He chased down two doubles to center field, hit second baseman Brandon Phillips with perfect relay throws and watched Phillips throw out runners at the plate to end the sixth and seventh innings. The Reds needed both outs in a game they won 6-5.
“The Phillies are very aggressive,” Hamilton said. “We know if a ball’s in the gap, they’re probably going to try to score. I knew I had to get there as fast as I could. One thing we preach is hitting the cutoff man. I knew if I got it to Brandon, who talks about his strong arm all the time, how he has a stronger arm than me, we would have a chance.”
Hamilton played shortstop his first four years in the minor leagues. The Reds moved him to center field after the 2012 season. He has made major strides in the last two seasons. He has made one error in 122 chances. His arm strength continues to surprise teams.
“It has improved,” Hamilton said. “It’s stronger than what I really thought it was. The scouting report on me is he has a strong arm, but he isn’t as accurate. I’m working on my accuracy, and I feel it’s improved since last year and it’s improved during the season this year. I feel good about that now.”
Manager Bryan Price has gone out of his way to praise Hamilton’s defense. It’s what he would prefer to talk about, he said, instead of the known quantity, Hamilton’s speed.
“As much as we’ve talked about the type of difference-maker he is offensively and the havoc he wreaks on pitchers, infielders, catchers, his defense has been something that has been out there every day,” Price said.
Dodgers at Reds, 7:10 p.m., FS Ohio, MLB Network, 700, 1410