Reds rest Hamilton until late pinch-run chance

Reds rest Hamilton until late pinch-run chance

NEW YORK -- Through his first three regular-season games, Reds center fielder and leadoff hitter Billy Hamilton was still seeking his first hit. Hamilton went 0-for-12 with six strikeouts in the Cardinals series.

That wasn't the reason that manager Bryan Price sat Hamilton, and shortstop Zack Cozart (0-for-11), for Friday's series opener vs. the Mets. Roger Bernadina started in center field while Ramon Santiago played shortstop.

"For no other reason than trying to make sure our other guys stay sharp," Price said about the lineup changes. "We had a very productive spring as far as getting these guys constant regular at-bats. I don't want them to lose that edge that they gained in the course of Spring Training."

Hamilton, who batted .327 with a .381 on-base percentage during an impressive spring that cemented his leadoff role, did enter in the top of the eighth inning as a pinch-runner, although he was caught stealing with the Reds trailing, 4-3. Before the game, Hamilton admitted to pressing at the plate since the games counted.

"I feel like I was rushing myself trying to do too much," Hamilton said. "The last game we had, I started hitting the ball more. I started breathing more. … Now I feel like I'm getting back to myself. The first two games, I was just trying to get a hit and not letting it come to me. [It was] like 'I had to get a hit. I have to do this.'"

Hamilton, 23, welcomed the opportunity to make the most of his time on the bench.

"I feel like this off-day is going to be a learning process today," Hamilton said. "I'm going to do a bunch of cage work. It's not that it's my swing, it's my mental approach. But I feel like this off-day and being on the bench will get things off my mind and not worry about anything."

During Thursday's 7-6 loss to the Cardinals, Hamilton reached base for the first time with a two-out walk in the bottom of the eighth.

"The walk even helped me out a lot," Hamilton said. "I wasn't chasing pitches as much. Me touching first base, it was 'OK, it's back to baseball. Now I feel more relaxed and comfortable to play this game.'"

Price said that Hamilton would definitely be starting Saturday's and Sunday's games vs. the Mets.

"I know that he's facing good pitching and he wants to do well," Price said. "Facing [Adam] Wainwright and some of the late-inning bullpen guys for St. Louis is a hard way sometimes to start the season. It hasn't affected the way I think about him or the type of impact he'll have on our club."

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.