Dilson Herrera’s goal for the first start of his professional career in the outfield was lofty.
“I want to make a catch like Billy Hamilton,” he said before Saturday’s game, referring to Cincinnati’s Gold Glove-caliber center fielder, who makes highlight plays look routine.
Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman thought that was a reach.
“Let’s hope he lets Billy make most of them,” Riggleman said.
Herrera, a second baseman and third baseman by trade, was batting second and playing left field in Riggleman’s lineup for the second game of Cincinnati’s three-game series against Arizona. Herrera, 24, has been working in the outfield during batting practice and made two appearances in left field off the bench before Saturday, and with All-Stars in Eugenio Suarez at third base and Scooter Gennett at second, he was anxious to find another possible position.
“I felt really happy,” the Colombia native said when hearing about the move. “I want to play. I want to help the team. I’ll do anything for the team.’
“Ask him whose glove he had to borrow,” catcher Tucker Barnhart chimed in from the across the Great American Ball Park home clubhouse.
“Brandon Dixon gave me his glove,” said Herrera, part of the package the Reds received from the Mets in the Aug. 1, 2016 trade of Jay Bruce.
Though hitting just .167 in 19 games since being recalled on July 6, Riggleman wanted the right-handed Herrera’s bat in the lineup against left-hander Robbie Ray.
“He’s a ballplayer,” Riggleman said. “He’s been playing ball his whole life. He’s done a little bit of everything. If you’re an infielder, you can handle a fly ball. We just want him to get it and get it back to the cutoff man. We want to win, but we also want to find out who can play. It could be a challenge for him. We’ll find out.
“Adam Duvall was a good outfielder. We’re not looking for a Duvall. We just want him to make the routine play and swing the bat for us.”
Still sore: First baseman Joey Vottos right knee started acting up late in Friday’s 3-0 win over the Diamondbacks. He was replaced by Brandon Dixon in a double-switch to start the ninth inning and wasn’t in Saturday’s starting lineup.
Friday’s start was Votto’s first appearance after missing the last two games of the Met series with a bruise, the result of being hit by a Ryan Madson pitch on August 4 in Washington. He played the next day and on Monday.
“As the game went longer and he was running the bases and playing defense, you could see it was bothering him,” Riggleman said. “Hopefully, he’ll be back in there (Sunday).”
Getting it: The suicide squeeze bunt pulled off by Billy Hamilton in the seventh inning on Friday could have long-term effects.
Reds fans have waited five years for Hamilton to become an effective bunter, and getting that ball down seemed to have flipped a switch for him. Instead of running as he bunted, as he tries to do when bunting for a hit, he squared and waiting for the pitch, put down the bunt and then ran.
“Most of the time, when I bunt, I try to run out of there, and I pop the ball up,” Hamilton said. “On the squeeze, you have to get the ball down, no matter what, or you will leave whoever is coming in from third in a bind. That showed me that, if I stayed in and just put the ball down, I can make things happen. I have to practice that more, trying to get the ball down and then run.”
To Hamilton, it’s a matter of trusting his speed.
“It is tough,” he said. “I feel that is what has been messing me up my whole career. I don’t realize how fast I am. I try to bunt the ball and run at the same time, and I’m fouling the ball off or not getting the ball down because I’m trying to rush it. Tonight, I stayed in there and got a bunt down. Now I know I can do that.”
That was music to Riggleman’s ears.
“I saw what he said, and I liked the word he used – put, instead of bunt,” Riggleman said. “That terminology goes back to 2012. Delino DeShields has worked with him. Barry Larkin has worked with him. Joe Morgan has worked with him. Doing it himself might be the best way to make it stick. One in a game is worth a hundred off the machine.”
Wrap it up: Right-hander Luis Castillo (6-9), who lost a tough 2-1 game at Washington in his last start, is scheduled to face right-hander Zack Godley (12-6) in Sunday’s 1:10 p.m. series finale.
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