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.
Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less