CINCINNATI — It was early afternoon, before batting practice, and coach Billy Hatcher was hitting balls to outfielders Billy Hamilton and Adam Duvall so they could practice throwing to second base, third base and home.
Yes, Hamilton and Duvall do practice those magnificent throws they are making in games for the Cincinnati Reds this year.
When Hatcher suggested the workout, Hamilton smiled and said, “Hey, Hatch. What else do you want us to do, bro? We’re leading the league in assists. “What more are you asking for?”
THERE WAS A TIME, early in Billy Hamilton’s center field career, after he had been moved away from shortstop, that he stood in the outfield with runners on base and thought to himself, “Please don’t hit the ball to me. I don’t want to have to try to throw a guy out and throw the ball away.”
And he felt that way his first couple of years with the Reds. Then he threw out a couple of runners and thought, “Hey, this is pretty cool, this is fun.”
NOW HE AND LEFT FIELDER Adam Duvall are tied for the major league lead in outfield assists with nine each and there is a friendly competition.
“Duvall and I get on each other about it every day, it is like a competition,” said Hamilton. “When he throws somebody out I am big-time pumped up. Then I say to myself that I have to throw somebody out, too. And when I throw somebody out he is big-time pumped up, too.”
About his change of attitude about assists, Hamilton said, “It isn’t that I didn’t like throwing people out, I just never did it. I wasn’t excited about it. Now I want somebody to hit it to me so I can throw somebody out. Before it was, ‘Please don’t hit it to me. I don’t want to make a bad throw to home or miss the cutoff man.’
“Now it is natural,” he added. “I want it hit to me, I want to throw somebody out. I’m excited to have it hit to me and want to throw somebody out every day.”
COMPETITION? WELL, ON TUESDAY Hamilton made two superlative catches, including one with his back to the infield for an overe-the-shoulder snag before crashing into the wall.
Duvall, too, ran to the wall in left field and slammed into it to make a catch. Then he whirled and threw to the cutoff man and the ball was relayed to first for a double play.
“I have to give that game to Duvall,” said Hamilton. “My catch was one of the best of my career, maybe THE best, but he got a double play out of his. So I’ll give it to him.”
AMAZINGLY, BOTH HAMILTON and Duvall began their careers as infielders — Hamilton at shortstop and Duvall at third base. And some eyebrows were hoisted when the Reds moved Duvall to left. He can’t play out there, can he? Oh, yes he can as he has shown with his asissts and some highlight video catches to match Hamilton.
“I appreiate it, I really appreciate it,” said Duvall when complimented on his defensive skills. “I thought that catch Tuesday was pretty good.”
Of the competition with Hamilton, Duvall said, “We don’t have anything money-wise, but there is a definite competition between us. It is not only on assists, but on making great plays. We cheer each other on, but also try to outdo each other.”
It helps that they locker next to each other and the barbs and jabs fly back and forth.
BEFORE WEDNESDAY’S game, Duvall was seated at his locker scanning his cell phone and Hamilton started in on him.
“Adam is great at getting to the left field corner and cutting balls off and he knows how the ball is going to bounce right to him off the wall,” said Hamilton. “But sometimes he throws to the wrong base and I correct him. Sometimes he wants to hold the ball and let ‘em get a triple and I have to correct him again.” Duvall looked up and Hamilton began laughing and said, “Just kidding. I love Duvy and love playing next to him because he always makes it fun.”
DISABLED PITCHER SCOTT FELDMAN threw in a bullpen session before Wednesday’s game under the eagle eyes of manager Bryan Price.
The arm is fine. The arm is ready to pitch. But it is the knee that has him on the DL and that’s the troublesome problem.
Feldman did some on-the-field drills to test the knee and Price called it mixed reviews. So Feldman may-or-may-not return to the rotation Saturday.
“Feldman’s bullpen was fine and they’ve been going fine,” said Price. “He threw three innings of a simulated game in Pittsburgh and was fine. Our concern is all the peripherals. As a National League pitcher he could be asked to bunt or run the bases and field his position.
“So we have to be sure that his agility is competitive,” Price added. “He is hobbled a little bit. We have to see how he comes out of the agility drills. If he is not ready, we’ll try to reset it for five days from Saturday.
“We can’t spend the next seven weeks chasing a start date for him,” said Price. “At some point we would have to identify that it is not worth pursuing and let’s just have him ready for 2018.”
Said Feldman, “It felt good today (his knee) and I hope it feels good tomorrow. I did all th stuff they wanted me to do and I hope it responds well and I’m ready to go.”
“We’ve been so good they might quit running on us and we won’t be able to throw anybody out,” said Hamilton. “But that’s OK, they won’t get any runs, either.. That’s a win-win.”