Reds Have Plan For Billy Hamilton





GOODYEAR, AriZ.—Every once in a while early in spring training, you'd see Billy Hamilton slowly walking by as the players in big league camp worked out.

"You'd see those guys on the other side of fence looking in," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "You know they want to be here."

"Here" is big league camp. Hamilton, a 21-year-old shortstop, had been at the Reds complex since early February. He participated in a minor league conditioning program for top prospects. But he wasn't invited to big league camp.

"It's tough," he said. "It's where I want to be. It's great motivation for me seeing those guys."

Hamilton, the club's No. 2 prospect, will probably open the season at high Class A Bakersfield.

"That was the plan coming in," said Bill Bavasi, the club's vice president of scouting, player development and international operations. "It could change. We've pushed him and (Didi) Gregorius pretty hard. We'll see how it goes."

The plan is to start Gregorius, also a shortstop, at Double-A Pensacola. If he gets bumped to Triple-A, Hamilton would likely to go to Double-A. Hamilton is still working exclusively at short, even though Gregorius is clearly ahead of him defensively.

Hamilton batted .278/.340/.360 with three home runs and 103 stolen bases for low Class A Dayton last year. The Reds were most pleased with the way he bounced back from a rough start. He hit just .233 prior to the all-star break but .318/.382/.387 after.

His 39 errors were a bit troubling, but he also gets to many balls that shortstops with average speed don't even go after.

RED HOTS

• Baker was impressed with the players in big league camp for the first time, such as Gregorius, righthander Daniel Corcino, second baseman Henry Rodriguez and first basemen Neftali Soto and Donald Lutz. All players were sent to minor league camp after the first cut.

• Outfielder Denis Phipps also made a good early impression in the his first big league camp. He was hitting .370 with a home run and three RBIs after 15 games. Could Phipps help the big league club this year? "It depends if he keeps progressing," Baker said. "It helps that he played winter ball and came into camp ready. He's got an outstanding arm. He runs well. He's a good outfielder."