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03/17/07 4:00 PM ET

Hamilton keeps pain under wraps

Outfielder suffers shin splints at Spring Training

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- His shins wrapped in heavy bandages, outfielder Josh Hamilton walked -- or was it a limp? -- toward his locker stall. On his way there, Hamilton peered over at couple of Reds coaches who were seated at stalls near his.

"There he is -- 'Secretariat,'" one of the coaches said.

The coach's comment drew a laugh from the other coach and a smile from Hamilton, who did move like a high-priced thoroughbred with the wraps.

But shin splints, which were what Hamilton was protecting, aren't anything that a person who has them finds much reason to laugh about. As Hamilton put it, "It's painful as ... "

Well, the shin splints hurt a lot, period. And Hamilton was trying to do whatever he could do to eliminate any discomfort. The wraps helped.

"I've had a couple of days off to try and get 'em feeling better," he said before the Reds-Red Sox game here Saturday. "But it's something I'm gonna have to deal with. It's not gonna get any better, probably, for another two or three weeks."

As he's dealt with the pain, he's played on. Hamilton was back in the Reds lineup after taking it easy the past couple of days. He's letting his mind deal with the matter, because the chances of getting a week's worth of rest aren't very good -- not with a roster spot to win.

In what has been one of the most surprising stories in baseball, Hamilton, whom the Reds picked up in the Rule 5 Draft, has played himself into a position to perhaps land a spot on their Opening Day roster. His talent, which made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 First-Year Player Draft, has been on display throughout Spring Training.

The 25-year-old Hamilton, a sculpted outfielder with all the baseball tools, has pushed aside the fact that, because of a back injury, an addiction to cocaine and arthroscopic knee surgery, he'd been away from professional baseball for the better part of four years. Yet he's been playing as if he'd never missed a single day.

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So he's not about to let shin splints derail his comeback.

"A lot of guys get 'em for two, three, four or five days during spring and during the year," Hamilton said. "I had 'em one time before for about three days; they went away.

"So, hopefully, they'll go away soon."

Rest would speed up the healing process, but who can afford to rest? Not Hamilton.

His shins, he admitted, might also get a bit of relief if he'd elevate his legs at night. That's what the medical staff keeps advising him to do. Unfortunately, Hamilton hasn't found that advice easy to heed.

"They tell you that, but that doesn't last," he said, smiling. "Who can sleep with their legs elevated?"

Justice B. Hill is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.