CINCINNATI -- Reds manager Dusty Baker knows that every day when he posts his lineup, it's quickly dissected by the masses. He doesn't care about the criticism he may face on a given day, but before the series finale against the Mets, Baker joked that nobody would question Wednesday's lineup.
That's because speedy center fielder and fan favorite Billy Hamilton was at the top of the order for the third start of his young Major League career. Although Hamilton has played in just 11 games as a big leaguer, Baker hasn't been at all hesitant to put the 23-year-old rookie in the leadoff spot.
"That's what he's done all his life," Baker said. "No. 1 tool is hopefully you can run. No. 2 is hopefully you can get on base to run."
Not surprisingly, Hamilton has excelled at the running aspect, going a perfect 13-for-13 on steal attempts entering Wednesday. Getting on base hasn't been much of a problem either, as Hamilton started his career by going 6-for-14 with a pair of walks.
Hamilton has also proven he isn't afraid of big moments. Though much of that has to do with Hamilton's confidence, Baker said it's also partly a result of the way he's been handled.
"I broke him in slowly," Baker said. "I didn't just throw him out there. [We] gave him time to work out, gave him time to feel like he belongs. [The] toughest part about being in the big leagues is feeling like you belong. The guys on our team have made him feel comfortable. Guys have accepted him big time, and he's easy to accept."
With Hamilton batting leadoff and playing center, Shin-Soo Choo moved over to left field and into the two-hole. As versatile as they come in the outfield, Choo can also be effective anywhere in the lineup.
"A hitter's a hitter," Baker said. "He hit all over the place in Cleveland. He wasn't just a leadoff man. If you can hit, you can hit, and Choo can hit. It's just that I don't want to waste Billy Hamilton batting him second."
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.