4/19/2014 3:15 P.M. ET
Price: Hamilton building 'foundation of confidence'
By Joe Popely / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Billy Hamilton's Major League debut was an absolute splash. The record-setting speedster entered on Sept. 3 against the Cardinals as a pinch-runner and did what he does best: stole a base. It was just a preview of things to come. Hamilton finished the month 13-for-14 in stolen bases and went 7-for-19 (.368) at the plate.
Now the Reds' everyday center fielder and leadoff man, Hamilton is counted on to be more than a pinch-runner and part-time fixture in the lineup. He's off to a less-than-desirable start in 15 games, posting a .176/.222/.255 slash line entering action Saturday. It's a small sample size, to be sure, but as manager Bryan Price said, it's about building a "foundation of confidence" for Hamilton to succeed at the Major League level.
"Yeah, I mean September was just an experience, more of an experience for me to come up to see how things work, but I feel like being an everyday player, it takes a lot more than just coming off the bench at a certain time," Hamilton said. "You've got expectations, more stuff to prove, but you still have to slow the season down.
"I'm starting to get to a point where I'm getting more relaxed, and I can play this game with the big guys."
The biggest adjustment for Hamilton, a career .280 hitter with 395 stolen bases in the Minor Leagues, is to Major League pitching.
"It's not like there is no book on Billy," Price said. "There is a book from what teams saw when he was in the Minor Leagues. There is a book from September and the  at-bats he got there and the book they get on him over the course of Spring Training. And also the other part is playing games that mean something in the standings. Facing the best starting pitching, facing the bullpen guys, there is a big difference from Spring Training to the regular season.
"That being said, his skill set suggests that he's going to be a dynamic player -- the attitude, the work ethic. Like any young player, there is going to be some hiccups along the way."
In Friday's 4-1 win over the Cubs, Hamilton showed what he could bring to the table. He doubled in a run in the fifth on a ball flared to left-center just out of the reach of a diving Junior Lake, hustling in ahead of the throw, and later stole third. In the ninth, he put down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance two runners. All the while, he played a solid center field.
"Yeah, I mean, it was good," Hamilton said. "Every good thing is always a positive. You've always got to have a little confidence. Even when things are not going good, you want to be able to pull something out of each and everything. ... Even if you don't do something at the plate, do something good defensively or get a sac bunt down or something."
"Yesterday was a confidence builder. I feel like the confidence I have now is pretty good."
So the buzzword with Hamilton is undoubtedly "confidence." The more he has, the more hits he will get and thus the more he will get on base. According to Hamilton, his gifted speed is less effective if he doesn't get on base.
"Like I always said, you've got to be on base to steal bases, and I haven't been on base much ," he said.
Marshall activated, Partch optioned to Triple-A
CHICAGO -- The Reds reinstated left-handed reliever Sean Marshall from the 15-day disabled list and optioned righty Curtis Partch to Triple-A Louisville, the team announced Saturday morning.
Marshall was hampered in Spring Training by a sore left shoulder and was placed on the DL on March 21. He made a pair of rehab appearances this week for Louisville, allowing one earned run on two hits with a pair of strikeouts and one walk in two innings, and he joined the team on Friday for the start of the series with the Cubs.
Cincinnati did not send Partch down because of poor performance. Reds manager Bryan Price stressed the most important thing for Partch right now was to pitch on a consistent basis. He, like several other members of the bullpen, were used sparingly over the past week and a half because of a pair of off-days and effective starting pitching.
In 4 1/3 innings this season, the 27-year-old righty didn't surrender a run, while allowing just one hit with three walks and three strikeouts.
"Yeah, it's always disappointing," Price said of sending down someone who has been playing well. "You don't have guys up here that you don't want to have here. But the one thing about Curtis, is of all the guys that we have here, he's the guy that needs to pitch the most consistently, because he's really right on that edge of defining himself as a true Major League pitcher. He certainly has the stuff, but the consistency isn't going to come without pitching, and he's not pitching much."
Getting Marshall back returns one of the National League's premier setup men to an already solid bullpen. It also balances the 'pen, which in Marshall's absence had just one lefty, Manny Parra. The situation was a tricky one for Price, who had to weigh using Parra in high-leverage situations with burning his only lefty too early in a game.
Now, he'll no longer have to use another right-handed reliever to do the "dirty work" against left-handers in late innings.
"Just having Manny, we really had to be particular on when we used him, and there were going to be those times where, hey, if we can get to the ninth with the lead, Manny would be the best guy to match up with that particular section of the lineup, yet you might need him in the seventh or the sixth," Price said. "And Marshall -- It's not just having two lefties, it's having Sean Marshall back. He's really good."
Phillips in lineup; Ludwick out with bruised toe
CHICAGO -- Brandon Phillips was back in the starting lineup Saturday and hitting third after being removed in the third inning of Friday's game due to back spasms. The move was mostly precautionary, and Reds manager Bryan Price doesn't expect Phillips' lower left back to flare up again.
"As far as I know, he didn't have any lower back issues until he took that swing off [Jeff] Samardzija yesterday, so my feeling is that once he gets past that, he won't have to do anything to maintain it," Price said. "He is already strong, I don't think he will have to do any maintenance."
Outfielder Ryan Ludwick, meanwhile, is out at least a couple of days with a bruised left big toe sustained in Friday's game. He hit a foul ball off his foot in his first at-bat, but singled and played the rest of the game. Ludwick's X-rays came back negative.
"Yeah, we'll see," Price said. "I know he woke up and it was pretty sore today. As long as you have [athletic trainer Paul] Lessard, you never know if there's going to be that miracle cure with Paul and his staff. It's bruised. ... It's certainly more painful than that, but it's right now, as far as we know, a bruise, contusion."
Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.