Hamilton Develops Quickly For Reds

CINCINNATI—The Reds see Billy Hamilton's spot in the lineup as leadoff. As for his position, the club is still undecided.

Hamilton was drafted in the second round in 2009 as a shortstop, but he spent more time at second base last year. He has his sights set on returning to his former position.

"Shortstop is my position," he said. "I think I'll be a shortstop."

A three-sport star at Taylorsville (Miss.) High, Hamilton was drafted largely for his athleticism. He was a good enough wide receiver to get a scholarship offer from Mississippi State. But his baseball skills were raw. The Reds have also converted Hamilton, a natural righthanded hitter, to a switch-hitter. He hit just .205/.253/.277 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League his first year. He struck out 47 times in 180 plate appearances.

Last year, things clicked. He hit .318/.383/.456 in 283 at-bats with Rookie-level Billings, and he cut his strikeout rate as well with 56 punchouts. The difference was that he's catching on with his hitting from the left side.

"My first year, I was focused on left," he said. "I wasn't where I wanted to be. Now, I can tell pitches and make contact on my left side. I worked real hard on my left. I honestly got as confident with my left as my right."

The numbers bear that out, albeit in a limited sample. In 54 trips to the plate against lefties last year, Hamilton hit .362/.444/.532, compared to a .309/.370/.441 batting line in 260 plate appearances against righthanders.

Hamilton is also the fastest runner in the Reds system. He stole 48 bases in 57 attempts last year.

"I use my speed," he said. "If I get thrown out one time, I'm going to go again. I'm not going to relax. I have fun running the bases."

This year Hamilton will join fellow speedster Yorman Rodriguez, an outfielder out of Venezuela signed in 2008 for $2.5 million, at low Class A Dayton. The two will play for manager Delino DeShields, who also managed them in Billings. Hamilton doesn't want to finish the year with the Dragons, though.

"I'd like to get to Double-A," he said.


• The Reds expect righthander Jose Arrendondo to be healthy for spring training. The club signed Arrendondo last year, knowing that he needed Tommy John surgery. Arrendondo went 10-2, 1.62 in 2008 with the Angels.

• Righthander Micah Owings, who elected free agency after the Reds designated him for assignment, signed with the Diamondbacks.