Reds notes: Hamilton’s hot spring, spot starter, injury updates

Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton warms up for a spring training game against the Chicago Cubs.

Lindsey Foltin/FOX Sports Ohio

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — The tee shirt is appropriate for Billy Hamilton. It reads "Speed Kills."

It’s the shirt Hamilton is wearing as he sits in the Reds clubhouse, headphones on, listening to music before his day is to get underway. Hamilton is comfortable in his surroundings. Maybe if the Reds had a larger daily media contingent following them there would be a greater fixation on Hamilton this final week of spring training but there isn’t.

That’s perfectly fine with Hamilton. There will be plenty of attention paid to the 23-year-old centerfielder once the real games start. For now, those games have yet to begin.

"I feel like I did what I’ve had to do and I feel better than when I came in to spring training, and that’s always a good thing," said Hamilton. "I’m still in spring training mode. I’m still in getting better mode."

Going into Tuesday’s game with Oakland, Hamilton’s spring numbers couldn’t be more encouraging. He’s hitting .313 with an on-base percentage of .389 and a slugging percentage of .458. In 16 games, he’s scored 13 runs and reached base safely in 14 of them. He’s had 15 hits in 48 at-bats plus six walks and he hasn’t been caught stealing in nine attempts.

Spring numbers are just that — spring numbers. They hold little meaning for what’s to come in the regular season. The question revolving around Hamilton this coming season will be his ability to get on base. One positive of his spring has been a patient approach at the plate. He’s seeing a lot of pitches and putting balls in play.

Projecting the roster

Watching Hamilton patrol center field, it’s easy to forget this is just his second season playing the position. He came up through the farm system as a shortstop before switching spots last season at Triple-A Louisville.

"Had I not known that he was a middle infielder when he was signed, I never would have thought he was a middle infielder. I would have assumed he was a center fielder," said manager Bryan Price. "Routes to balls, footwork, approaching a base hit to throw to an advance base, throwing mechanics wise for a guy that used to play infield and made a lot of throws from that lower three-quarters slot. He throws a very true ball from the outfield. He doesn’t have a lot of tail and run to his throws. He’s been very accurate with his throwing."

Hamilton was a September callup last year and played in 13 games as the Reds were in the midst of a pennant race. He was a pinch runner in seven of those games. He did what he did best last September, successfully stealing his first 13 bases before New York Mets catcher Juan Centeno threw him out.

Hamilton will be much more than a callup this year.

"By being there and experiencing the atmosphere of the big leagues, you know this is where I want to be. This is exactly where I want to be," said Hamilton. "I know that if I come out here and play my game and play to my ability, I’ll be okay. I don’t put any pressure on myself. I just come out here every day to get better and learn some stuff. I’ll be fine."

SIMON DECISION: Alfredo Simon has been starting every fifth day this spring but that doesn’t mean he will automatically be in the rotation once the season starts. Simon has had some struggles his last few outings, including giving up four runs (three earned) on six hits in five innings against Cleveland on Monday.

The Reds will need a fifth starter on April 6 for the finale of a three-game series at New York against the Mets. They won’t need that fifth starter again until April 15 at home against Pittsburgh. Whoever is the fifth starter will be filling in for Mat Latos.

"We’re still deciding on what we want to do with Simon if he’s a better piece as a bullpen piece as opposed to a starter," said Price. "Considering not having (Aroldis) Chapman, not having (Sean) Marshall or (Jonathan) Broxton to start the season, he could help influence that back end of those ballgames quite well."

Brett Marshall would be another possibility to fill the fifth spot. He’s given up nine hits and three runs in 13 innings this spring. His one issue has been a loss of control at times. He had three walks in four innings his last outing against Kansas City last Friday, all of them coming in his final inning of work. Two of those runners came around to score.

WALKING WOUNDED UPDATE: Price said pitchers Homer Bailey, Mat Latos and Jonathan Broxton all came through their outings on Monday in good shape and will continue on their respective programs…

Catcher Devin Mesoraco did more work in the batting cage on Tuesday but has not yet faced live pitching.

"I hate to say baby steps. That might be misrepresentative of what’s going to happen," said Price. "We’re going to progressively move forward. I think if he gets through today, he’ll be a lot closer to live batting practice and things of that nature."

Price said Mesoraco might have a shot at playing in either of the split-squad games on Thursday that mark the end of the major league club’s stay in Arizona. If not, he could remain at the complex and play in a minor league game over the weekend while the team plays exhibitions in Pensacola on Friday and Louisville on Saturday…

Sean Marshall is scheduled to throw a live bullpen session on Wednesday.