When Billy Hamilton makes contact and squeezes the ball between defenders, something spectacular usually happens.
Hamilton tripled in the Reds 4-3 win over the Rockies on Monday night, later scoring what proved to be the game’s winning run.
The hits didn’t come easily for Hamilton, who had four in 23 at-bats before being reassigned to the team’s minor-league camp on Tuesday. When he reached base, however, the speedster continued to show why scouts consider him a potentially devastating leadoff hitter. With two walks, he reached base six times, yet two of those hits were triples, and he added three stolen bases.
Hamilton said he’s not putting any pressure on his timeline to the majors, or his transition from shortstop to center field.
“It’s not a big rush,” Hamilton said. “Some of this is new, and even though I played center for a month in the Arizona Fall League, I feel like I’m still learning here each day. A lot of the guys who’ve played center field keep helping.”
The Reds don’t need Hamilton now, not with the way Shin-Soo Choo was chugging along this spring. But Choo is on a one-year deal and it’s possible the Reds could come to camp next year looking for Hamilton to emerge.
And with last season’s record-breaking 155 steals under his belt, he knows a little more offense will eventually earn him a shot to play somewhere in the Reds outfield. Not that he cares where.
“Left, right, center, it’s kind of the same,” he said. “I just need to keep getting out there and learning. All these guys have treated me well. It’s a fun place, and the guys are great.”
If Hamilton does eventually become the weapon the Reds believe he can, manager Dusty Baker could have a piece that would make other clubs jealous. Baker said earlier this spring that prototypical leadoff men are in short supply these days, and Hamilton could invoke memories of some of the greats.
“There’s less speed now,” Baker said. “Now that the steroid era has ended, they’re gonna have to go back to baseball before. Speed and finesse, and hitting versus slugging. Less strikeouts, hopefully.
“We were spoiled by the likes of Rickey Henderson, Lou Brock and those guys.”
Hayes reassigned: Hamilton wasn’t the only one moved on Tuesday. Relief pitcher Drew Hayes was also reassigned to the team’s minor-league camp.
Hayes had a solid spring, allowing two earned runs in seven appearances. Hayes was singled out by Baker as one of the youngsters who impressed him. His last showing before being sent down was a memorable one — he earned the save by working the ninth inning.
Hayes, who held down the role of closer with the Dayton Dragons in 2011, has yet to throw a regular season pitch above Double-A.
Extra Bases: Cesar Izturis isn’t making the decision on the utility infielder position easy; the veteran had hit safely in seven of nine games prior to Tuesday. … Choo again didn’t get the start on Tuesday. The leadoff man has been suffering through back spasms, something Baker said the former Indian had never experienced before. Derrick Robinson got the start atop the lineup and in center. … The Reds have today off, but when they play Thursday against Oakland, they’re expected to have Mark Prior on the hill. Johnny Cueto will get the start with the former Cubs star Prior listed to follow. Also, Armando Galarraga and Jonathan Broxton are scheduled to get some work in minor-league games.