Hamilton ready to return from hamstring strain

Hamilton ready to return from hamstring strain

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."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.