3/15/2014 7:57 P.M. ET
Seeing Hamilton run never gets old for Reds
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Each time Reds rookie center fielder Billy Hamilton gets on base, opposing pitchers are left both victimized and impressed.
In the bottom of the first inning of Friday's 2-1 Reds win over the Rangers, Hamilton worked from a 0-2 count to draw a leadoff walk against starting pitcher Tanner Scheppers. Although Scheppers tried to hold Hamilton at first base with a couple of throws there, he successfully stole second base on the first pitch to Brandon Phillips. Hamilton then took third base on a wild pitch to Joey Votto.
"That guy can fly. Wow. That was impressive," Scheppers said after the game.
"He did everything right, and they still couldn't get him," Reds manager Bryan Price said.
Hamilton's speed and quickness, which helped him steal a record 155 bases in the Minors in 2012, still shocks those on his own club -- including Price.
"It's kind of like when [pitcher Aroldis] Chapman first showed up," Price said on Saturday. "We got a chance to see that fastball as a reliever -- not touching 100 every now and again -- but pitching at 100-105 mph virtually every pitch. You never get tired of seeing it, but the shock and awe part of it wears off after a while. I'm sure with Billy, you're never going to underappreciate his speed or take it for granted. Right now, we're right in the height of it.
"We get to see it every day, every play at first base, every bunt, every ground ball. It's a bang-bang. Every base hit to center field is a possible double based on how aggressively the center fielder goes after the ball. It's really exciting to watch."
Hamilton, who was not in the lineup Saturday, has been successful to this point at showing he can lock down the leadoff role to replace departed free agent Shin-Soo Choo. Through his first 11 games, the 23-year-old batted .276 (8-for-29) with a .400 on-base percentage, six walks and seven steals.
Earlier this week, CBSSports.com reported that Hamilton's time from home plate to first base was a stunning 3.3 seconds following a drag bunt for a hit against the Rangers' Yu Darvish. That would put Hamilton on a pace with world-class sprinters in track and field.
"It's a special speed tool," Price said. "It's one of those gifts that we're excited that we have it, and we don't have to defend it. Those guys are game changers."
Bailey scratched with mild right groin strain
PHOENIX -- Two years ago, the Reds went through the entire 2012 season with all five starters in their rotation staying healthy. This year, three starters have already been injured during Spring Training.
Homer Bailey became the latest pitcher to be hurt when he was scratched from his start Saturday because of a mild right groin strain.
"We just decided to be cautious," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He's right on time, he's throwing the ball good, so we're just going to push him back. I can't tell you exactly when he's going to make his next start. It's not a significant strain."
Bailey felt something while throwing during Friday afternoon's workout, and he notified the medical staff.
"It was kind of weird," Bailey said. "It all just kind of happened at once. I was already done with my throwing for the day and throwing a little flat ground and literally said, 'OK, one more.' Sure enough, that one more was [it]. I didn't feel anything before it happened, nothing. It just kind of came out of nowhere."
While considered a minor injury, and not one expected to affect his status for beginning the regular season on time, it was enough to alarm Bailey.
"It scared me right away," Bailey said. "Even afterwards, I was doing stuff and it kind of tightened up on me, and I said, 'Well, maybe I'll get it checked out. Let's be proactive about it and get this thing knocked out.'"
Last month, Bailey was signed to a six-year, $105 million contract by Cincinnati. In 32 starts last season, the 27-year-old was 11-12 with a career-best 3.49 ERA in 32 starts. He also achieved career bests in innings (209) and strikeouts (199).
Through his three spring starts, Bailey is 0-1 with a 4.00 ERA, having allowed four earned runs and four hits, including two home runs, in nine innings.
Reds camp began with starter Mat Latos tearing meniscus cartilage in his left knee and needing surgery. Latos may get into his first spring game next week. Mike Leake missed his first start of spring with a mild abdomen strain but has since made two starts without issues. Johnny Cueto has not been injured this spring, but he has been under close scrutiny after a right lat strain kept him out most of last season.
"I guess better now than when the season starts," Price said of his rotation's injuries. "Optimistically, I feel like there's a chance we can start with all five intact. I don't think the Homer thing will be an issue. Johnny has been feeling good. Mat came out of [Friday live batting practice] feeling good. Leaker seems to be over the hump. Some of these things we could have been more aggressive with if it was in-season or if it was a big series. These guys probably could have pitched. It just doesn't make any sense to run these guys through it."
Heisey standing tall after adjustments at plate
PHOENIX -- Reds outfielder Chris Heisey has never been afraid to tinker with his batting stance, especially when things aren't going well at the plate. This spring, it appears that Heisey has found an approach that is working.
During Saturday's 16-4 Reds win against the Brewers, Heisey hit his Major League-leading fifth home run of spring -- a two-run shot to left field with two outs in the first inning. In the third inning, he hit a double to left field and later scored.
"There hasn't been a day when I felt like it's not clicking," Heisey said after exiting the game. "Every day hasn't been perfect, but every day I've felt like I can compete up there, and I think it's a byproduct of that relaxed kind of feeling. When I get tense, I start speeding things up, and I've been able to kind of slow the game down up there and recognize some pitches. I'm in a good spot because of being relaxed and loose to put the barrel on it."
In 13 games this spring, Heisey is batting .412 (14-for-34) with 10 extra-base hits and 11 RBIs.
Heisey, projected to be the Reds' fourth outfielder, estimated that he had probably used more than 10 different batting stances in the past five years. He developed his current one during an offseason workout with Mets Minor League outfielder Joe Tuschak. The two players both live in Dillsburg, Pa., during the winter.
"He has his hands real low and just looked real relaxed," Heisey said. "It's kind of what I've been trying to get to, a place where I can just relax and be loose. One day I just tried it, and it felt real good. So I came into spring hitting like that, not really knowing how once I got into a game it would translate. So far, I've felt really good and relaxed. Hopefully I can keep it going."
• Reliever Jonathan Broxton, who since August has been working his way back from right forearm surgery to repair a torn flexor mass tendon, is scheduled to appear in his first game on Monday against the Indians. Broxton threw 38 pitches Friday in his latest bullpen session and had no problems.