3/29/2014 8:18 P.M. ET
Ignoring chatter helped Hamilton to stellar spring
By Mark Schmetzer / Special to MLB.com
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- If any subject was the talk of Cincinnati's Spring Training as camp opened on Valentine's Day, it was Billy Hamilton.
There was reason. The Reds had allowed productive leadoff hitter and better-than-expected center fielder Shin-Soo Choo to leave as a free agent, opening the door for the 23-year-old base-stealing sensation to take command of both roles.
Hamilton was the subject of a flurry of stories at the beginning of camp, but the wave of injuries that swept over Cincinnati's Spring Training sort of nudged Hamilton out of the limelight and allowed him to quietly build his case for those jobs.
Spotlight or no spotlight, it didn't matter to Hamilton.
"You can't go on what people say," said Hamilton, who grounded out in his only at-bat in Cincinnati's exhibition game against Triple-A Louisville on Saturday. "I just came in and tried to get better. I don't listen to what people say. I just came out here to learn."
Over 18 Cactus League games, Hamilton hit .327 with a .381 on-base percentage. He added a home run and eight runs batted in, while producing two doubles, three triples and a team-high nine stolen bases in nine tries -- more than a third of the team's total of 26 successful steals.
Hamilton logged at least one hit in 12 of his 18 games and reached base with either a hit or a walk in all but three of his appearances. He also led the Reds with 14 runs scored.
"There were things I had to work on and things I wanted to get better at," he said. "I think this spring went pretty much the way I wanted it to go. I think it's one of the best springs I've ever had."
Leake, Bailey solid in final spring tuneups
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Two pitchers who had mild injury issues in Spring Training, right-handers Mike Leake and Homer Bailey, faced each other on Saturday in the Reds' final exhibition game of the spring, a 5-1/2 inning matchup against Triple-A Louisville at Slugger Field.
Leake, pitching for Louisville after his scheduled start on Friday against Double-A Pensacola was rained out, allowed two hits and no runs in six innings, though the Reds did push across a run in the fifth after he'd recorded three outs. The official scorers decided to not count anything that happened after three outs, leading to a 1-0 Bats win.
Leake certainly enjoyed this outing better than his last, when Milwaukee pummeled him for nine hits and eight runs (seven earned) in four innings.
"Today, I was better as far as getting the ball down in the zone," said Leake, who had a slight abdominal strain early in camp, but remains scheduled to start on Friday against the Mets in New York. "I felt as good today as I did in my last start, but I threw the ball a little better."
Bailey, set back by a groin strain, allowed one hit and one run with two walks and three strikeouts in three innings. He is scheduled to start on Thursday against the Cardinals in Cincinnati.
"The key thing was getting Homer and Mike Leake to pitch," manager Bryan Price said. "Mission accomplished there. It was imperative that they threw the ball today."
The game was threatened by rain, which prompted the decision to end it after 5 1/2 innings. The Reds then rode buses back to Cincinnati, where they get Sunday off before opening the season Monday against the Cardinals at 4:10 p.m. ET.
Bell, Bernadina, Barnhart, Soto to break with Reds
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Get ready for a flurry of Reds roster moves, perhaps starting sometime around 3 p.m. ET Sunday, the deadline for filing official rosters with Major League Baseball.
First-year Cincinnati manager Bryan Price got the ball rolling on Saturday, revealing shortly after the Reds' 1-0 exhibition loss to Triple-A Louisville that two non-roster players -- right-handed pitcher Trevor Bell and outfielder Roger Bernadina -- had earned spots on the team. They join infielder Ramon Santiago as non-roster invitees to Spring Training to make the team for Opening Day, which means the Reds have to remove at least three players from their current 40-man roster.
Any players cut from the 40-man roster must pass through waivers, unless an injured player is placed on the 60-day disabled list. Price wouldn't comment on which players were being removed from the 40-man roster.
Price also announced that Tucker Barnhart, a pure catcher, and Neftali Soto, a corner infielder who started working this spring to add catching to his repertoire, will join Brayan Pena to give the Reds three players capable of catching. Barnhart will likely get most of his work as the backup to Pena, who will start in place of the injured Devin Mesoraco, the projected everyday backstop before developing an oblique injury.
"That's a luxury, for sure," Price said about having three catchers.
Bernadina earned his spot by hitting .413 in 22 Cactus League games. Bell logged a 1.04 ERA in nine games and will get a shot at helping fill the bullpen slot left vacant when right-hander Alfredo Simon was moved into the starting rotation to replace the injured Mat Latos.
"We needed somebody with good length," Price said.
Ludwick feeling healthy as camp closes
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- By the official calendar, the anniversary still is a few days away, but by the method with which baseball marks time, Monday is the one-year anniversary of the injury that cost Ryan Ludwick virtually the entire 2013 season.
Ludwick suffered a right shoulder injury while sliding headfirst into third base during the third inning of Cincinnati's Opening Day game against the Angels in Cincinnati last April 1 -- one day later than the 2014 opener, which is scheduled for Monday at Great American Ball Park. The injury was severe enough to require surgery and kept him sidelined until mid-August, but he wasn't at full strength when he did return.
If the 35-year-old Ludwick isn't back to full strength, he is much closer as the 2014 season approaches than he was at the end of 2013. The right-handed hitter, who is expected to be the Reds' everyday left fielder, put together a problem-free Spring Training in which he batted .250 with one home run and five RBIs over -- and this is perhaps the most important stat -- 19 Cactus League games. That's one more than rookie Billy Hamilton.
"I don't feel good as far as numbers, but if you look at my last three or four Spring Trainings, they haven't been good," Ludwick said before the Reds' exhibition game against the Triple-A Bats in Louisville on Saturday. "I don't know why. Maybe I can't get the intensity going, but I feel good. My shoulder's healthy. Hopefully, that will translate into better numbers when the lights go on."
Ludwick, who grounded into a double play in his only at bat during Saturday's exhibition game, hit .220 in Spring Training in 2013, but he hit .283, .283 and .303 in each of the previous camps, all while playing at least 17 games. Still, the numbers -- good or bad -- aren't as important to him as simply feeling good.
"Ask them how many times I've iced my shoulder," he said, gesturing toward the Reds' clubhouse at Louisville Slugger Field while standing in the tunnel near the door. "None. Ask them how many times they've had to work on my shoulder. None."
Mark Schmetzer is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.