CINCINNATI — The thing about Billy Hamilton is that he talks as fast as he runs. Words come out of his mouth as if shot from a machine gun.
And if he is passionate about a subject, you ask him for a drink of water and he gives you Niagara Falls.
One of those subjects right now is bunting for base hits, something Hamilton has been doing the last couple of weeks with dexterity and a high success rate.
RIGHT NOW, TOO, IT DOESN’T matter what the count might be. He isn’t afraid to lay it down. An example surfaced Monday night against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Reds trailed, 2-0, in the seventh inning. Even though he had two strikes, Hamilton dropped a bunt and beat it for a hit, igniting a four-run inning that led to a 4-2 victory.
A couple of things have happened to inject bunting into his recent game.
1-He no longer runs toward first base before bunting. Now he squares around and makes certain to get the bunt down before fleeing toward first. His speed is such that he can still beat it out.
2-He has confidence in his bunting now and he goes to home plate knowing he is going to bunt BEFORE he get into the box. He doesn’t make it a last-second decision in the midst of the at bat.
“It’s more about making sure I get it down right now instead of being so fast and trying to beat it out,” he said. “Now I try to make sure I get it down and that it is a good bunt.”
In Hamilton’s case, putting the bunt into the right real estate is essential because the third baseman and first baseman fear the bunt when Hamilton is in the box. So they play on top of him, close enough to sniff his cologne.
“It’s more difficult for me because you know the infielders are going to be way in all the time, pretty much every pitch,” he said. “So I need a perfect bunt nearly every single time, not like guys who don’t bunt much and don’t have the speed.
“I’m comfortable doing it right now and I’m focusing on bunting,” he said. “In the past I focused on just trying to hit the baseball, knowing I can come back to bunting.
“Over the past couple of weeks I’ve seen that I can get those bunt hits and it takes the pressure off me a little bit,” he added.
AND WHEN HE LEAVES THE on-deck circle he is a Man With a Plan. He knows if he is going to bunt and he knows if he is goinig to swing away.
“That was a problem for me in the past,” he said. “I didn’t know if I was going to bunt a pitch or swing at a pitch. You have to think, ‘I’m going to bunt this pitch.’ If you don’t and then decide you are going to swing, you’re late on pitches. If you think you are going to swing and then decide, ‘Oh, I’m going to bunt,’ you are already late trying to get it down.”
And he is always looking for the right pitch to bunt, which is why he squares to bunt sometimes and lets the pitch go by.
“People think I’m faking the bunt, but I’m not,” he said. “I’m looking for the right pitch to bunt. You can’t bunt every pitch and get it in the direction you want it to go.”
Hamilton, wearing a red jersey with ‘BH6’ on te front, laughed when asked about fans who wonder why he doesn’t bunt all the time.
When it was mentioned that fans seem to be expert bunters, he said, “They want to tell you, ‘Why don’t you bunt?’ Those guys want to tell you to bunt every pitch and how to do it just because I have speed. I guess it doesn’t matter that those guys on defense are not just some kids out there who can’t field and can’t throw the baseball to first base. They think, ‘Just bunt it. You’ll be safe every time.’”
MANAGER BRYAN PRICE said there has not been a pointed emphasis made on Hamilton’s bunting.
“The part for me is that he has a lot of elements to his game offensively to focus on,” said Price. “We saw the evolution of his base-stealing at this level after 2014. We worked on that. We’ve worked on a decrease of him hitting balls in the air. Making hard contact. There are a lot of things to cover with young players. The bunting was emphasized, but not overemphasized.”
Price has an interesting take on Hamilton’s value to the team — and it isnt just about stealing bases. It is many-fold
“Nobody advances bases (first-to-third, second-to-home, first-to-home) than Billy Hamilton,” said Price. “He advances on a short wild pitch or passe ball. He beats out the bunts or a slow ground ball that is usually an out.
“There is the defensive part,” said Price. “But the biggest thing Billy does is what he does for guys hitting when he is on base. It’s the types of pitchings guys hitting behind him get to hit. Pitchers rush the ball to the plate and focus more on fastballs to give the catcher a chance to throw Billy out.
“He is a huge distraction, which may be more important than the stole base impact,” Price added. “It’s the distraction it becomes to the other team.”
SCOTT SCHEBLER WAS out of the lineup for the third straight game (strained left shoulder) and, in addition, manager Bryan Price gave Adam Duvall Tuesday night off.
That took two regular outfielders out of the lineup and took 30 home runs and 75 RBI out of the lineup.
Schebler is expected back in the lineup Wednesday so wouldn’ it make more sense to rest Duvall, if he needs it, on Wednesday?
Schebler came to the park Tuesday a little stiff and a little sore, but worked it out during early-afternoon drills. He said he could play and wanted to play, “But I talked to Bryan and he said he wanted me to go through a full day of feeling good before he puts me back in there.”
Said Price, “Just a day off for Duvall. He has played every game for a month. It is a break, for a day, and get Patrick Kivlehan in there.”
Kivlehan was in right field, Schebler’s spot, and Scooter Gennett was in left field, in Duvall’s spot.
“I just wanted to give Dewey (Duvall) a day off, even though he probably doesn’t want it,” said Price. “It just makes sense to give him a breather.”
RELIEF PITCHER TONY Cingrani was activated for Tuesday’s game and Lisalverto Bonilla was optioned back to Louisville. While Cingrani was gone, left hander Wandy Peralta took over the seventh and eighth inning role of the left handed Cingrani.
So does Cingrani gets his spot back right away?
“First we have to establish that Cingrani is sharp,” said Price. “That’s the responsible thing to do. He didn’t just miss 10 days or two weeks. This was several, several weeks. To be fair to Tony and to be fair to the ballclub and I’m not going to plug him in right away to get us the biggest outs. I’ll try to get him into less stressful situations at first.”
PRICE WAS ASKED BEFORE Tuesday’s game about facing St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright.
“It is one thing to throw a shutout, but when you are winning your own games with homers, that’s pretty good,” said Price, referring to Wainwright’s last start when he beat the Chicago Cubs, 2-0, hitting a two-run home run to furnish all the runs. “He is a fun guy to watch. You hope when you play the Cardinals you hope he is not in line to pitch against you. So I’m hoping he is not very good tonight.”