Reds four-man outfield rotation to stay intact

CINCINNATI — Billy Hamilton is in an offensive maelstrom that encircles him nearly every time he steps into the batter’s box. The numbers are awful and ugly.

In 100 plate appearances, Hamilton has struck out more than one-third of the time, 33 times. He has drawn only 13 walks. His batting average is .172 and his on-base average is .280.

When asked if he considered benching Hamilton and using him as a pinch-runner and a defensive replacement, manager Jim Riggleman made it clear that the front office wants him to continue to use the four-man outfield platoon.

“When Brian Price was here the people upstairs made it clear that they wanted the four outfielders to be rotated and it is still that way,” said Riggleman. “They believe that in the long run it will work itself out. “I really don’t want to change that up, it’ll look like we gave up on our message too quickly. There will come a time, I hate to use Billy as an example, but anybody, if you play for long enough and are just struggling, then your role changes.”

On Tuesday, it was Jesse Winker’s turn to sit and he sat, despite his .305 average and his .414 on base percentage. Hamilton was in center field, batting in his now-normal ninth spot in the batting order.

“Billy is a valuable guy, even when he isn’t hitting,” said Riggleman, espousing the party line. “There is a huge difference when he is hitting, though. We’ve all seen those times when he is hitting and getting on base at a .350 clip for a period of time. He scores runs and creates havoc out there. But when he is not he is still valuable. He is the best defensive outfielder in the league, in my opinion. Still, we need him getting on base. And we will continue to use the four-man outfield system.”

SCOOTEER GENNETT’S LOCKER area was engulfed in a dozen ‘Happy Birthday’ balloons when he arrived at the park, compliments of locker neighbor Joey Votto.

It was Gennett’s 28th birthday, but he wasn’t in the lineup due to his sore shoulder. An MRI revealed no structural damage but the shoulder remains stiff and sore, something he has carried with him since the third day of spring training.

“Scooter is out of today’s lineup, but he is pinch-hit available,” said manager Jim Riggleman. “And there is a strong temptation to hold him out tomorrow because of the off day Thursday. That would give him four days off before he returns to the lineup Friday.”

In Gennett’s place Tuesday was rookie Rosell Herrera, making his major league starting debut although he has made one pinch-hitting appearance since his call-up from Class AAA Louisville last Thursday.

“Alex Blandino is doing a great job, but Rosell has been here for a number of days and I just have to get him a game,” said Riggleman. “The objective is to win the ball game, but he was playing very well at Triple-A. He moves well and all that stuff. I hate to have a guy sit on te bench for 10 straight days. With Scooter down, we can get him in there tonight and get Blandino back in there tomorrow.”

PITCHING COACHES DANNY DARWIN and Ted Power believe they have identified some chinks in pitcher Luis Castillo’s delivery and that some minor adjustments can be made and are being made.

Riggleman said he would have preferred to skip Castillo’s turn this time through the rotation. But that wasn’t possible and he faces the Milwaukee Brewers tomorrow night.

“If his turn had fallen on Thursday, the off day, we could have skipped him and worked with him in two bullpen sessions,” said Riggleman. Riggleman, though, indicated that Castillo might be skipped or given an extra day of rest when his next turn surfaces Monday against the New York Mets.

Castillo is 1-and-3 with a 7.85 earned run average over his six sterts. His last two have been particularly horrendous. In his last start at Minnesota he gave up five runs, six hits and two walks in one inning. In his start before that he gave up three runs, seven hits and four walks in five innings against the St. Louis Cardinals.

“Danny and Ted have identified some stuff from past years and they feel maybe his arm angle has dropped a little bit,” said Riggleman. “Whether that means you hand or arm isn’t getting on top of the ball, whatever that is, they’ll try to make a little adjustment. The next time through the rotation we’ll give him the extra an extra day. But his day is Wednesday and we’re confident this time he will give us a good one.”

ONCE UPON A TIME major league hitters were embarrassed to strikeout even once a game. Now, though, it appears there is no embarrassment to striking out two or three or even four times in a game, as long as in one at bat they hit a ball over the river and through the woods.

And it is getting worse and worse, as April proved. For the first time in major league history, the 30 major league teams struck out more times than they collected hits in one month.

For the month just completed, the 30 teams struck out 7,335 times and amassed 6,992 hits. It was the same for both leagues. National League hitters struck out 3,784 times and produced 3,472 hits. American League hitters whiffed 3,551 times and gathered ,3520 hits.

The National League struck out more than the American League because of the designated hitter rule — pitchers bat in the National League and a DH bats for the pitcher in the American League.

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