03/16/2013 12:04 AM ET
Hamilton ready to return from hamstring strain
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds top prospect and center fielder Billy Hamilton is expected to return and play in one of the team's split-squad games on Saturday.
Hamilton has not played since March 8 because of a mild strain of his left hamstring.
"I'm all right. There's nothing wrong with it," Hamilton said.
Coming off a 2012 season where he stole a professional-record 155 bases combined at Class A Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola, Hamilton has been under a spotlight. He is a non-roster player in his first big league camp.
Offensively, it's been a struggle. In 11 games, Hamilton is 2-for-18 (.111) with eight strikeouts. But overall, the 22-year-old says camp has gone as he expected it would.
"Of course, it's going to be different going from the Minor Leagues to the big leagues," Hamilton said on Friday. "The stats haven't been showing what I've done really well. As long as you're learning stuff, it makes Spring Training better. It's not how you perform all the time. I feel like this Spring Training has been good for me for learning."
The other learning curve for Hamilton has been making the transition from shortstop to center field, a process that began in the Arizona Fall League after last season. Hamilton has been working regularly with coach Billy Hatcher and instructor Eric Davis on the finer points of the position, which the Reds believe will be less physically demanding than shortstop.
"I feel like the time I've spent out there in center field, I'm doing pretty good," Hamilton said. "I'm reading balls better, getting great jumps and I feel like I'm a center fielder now. I've adjusted to it very quick and that's a good thing. I've always adjusted to stuff fast."
Votto given day of rest away from complex
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- There was no sign of first baseman Joey Votto at Reds camp on Friday, but that was preplanned. Shortstop Zack Cozart and outfielder Chris Heisey were also given breathers away from the complex.
"An unscheduled mental day off, not at the ballpark," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "I give them all days where they have one day not at the ballpark. Joey said he didn't feel good and was a little spent because he played the last two games of the WBC, the whole nine innings, which he wasn't accustomed to doing."
In two games for Cincinnati after Team Canada was eliminated in the first round of the World Baseball Classic, Votto is 0-for-3 with a walk. He played four innings on Thursday vs. the Mariners and went 0-for-2.
"I played him a couple of innings [Thursday] because I didn't want to give him two days off," Baker said.
In 11 games this spring, Votto is 7-for-21 (.333) with two doubles, one home run and five RBIs. He has had no setbacks with his surgically repaired left knee, which was a major concern for the club entering camp.
Baker ready for Reds pitchers to see at-bats
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- For the first time this spring, the Reds chose to play a game without a designated hitter in their lineup on Friday and had ace Johnny Cueto bat for himself. Cueto did record one at-bat vs. the D-backs on March 4, when Arizona refused to allow the Reds to use a DH. In that game, he was told not to swing and struck out looking.
Reds manager Dusty Baker plans to have his pitchers hit in games the rest of spring.
"Unless I think somebody needs some ABs or something," Baker said. "If an American League team comes, especially, or a National League team, I don't care. You have to get your team ready, which is what [D-backs manager] Kirk Gibson disagreed with."
Reds starting pitchers were all taking practice before Friday's game.
"They've been hitting in the cage 10-12 days," Baker said. "That's an unnatural motion for them to swing. Especially with Johnny, he got that oblique [injury] from last year [in the postseason]. You hope that doesn't come back. That's something you're always afraid of when pitchers are hitting."
Cueto, who was 1-for-2 against the Rockies with a broken-bat single to short right field in the third inning, had no issues with his oblique swinging the bat.
"I felt nothing," Cueto said. "I feel 100 percent."
Asked if he felt good to go for Opening Day, the Reds ace replied, "I'm ready."
Baker chats with ownership group at spring complex
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- This weekend the Reds are hosting all of their minority shareholders at the team complex. Manager Dusty Baker was part of a lengthy private session with the ownership group, which he termed "statements and questions."
"I tell them statements and sometimes they ask questions," Baker said on Friday. "You always have to be open to questions."
The questions, and answers, were kept under wraps but Baker was met with enthusiasm during the meeting.
"They are enthusiastic about our progress and about where we've come in a short period of time -- three years -- and our possible sustainability," Baker said. "That's what it's about, sustaining high excellence, which is what we wanted and not a one-year thing. We want to be good for a long period of time. You increase your odds for championships when you do that."