Hamilton on joining Braves: ‘It’s like Christmas again’
ATLANTA (AP) — Billy Hamilton feels like Christmas came early.
After being let go by one of baseball’s worst teams, Hamilton joined the first-place Atlanta Braves on Tuesday to help with their push for the playoffs.
“It’s a great feeling,” Hamilton said in the clubhouse at SunTrust Park before the opener of a three-game series against the Miami Marlins. “I had chills going down my body when they called me the other morning and told me I had been claimed by the Braves.”
Hamilton was designated for assignment by the Kansas City Royals on Friday after a dismal season for both him and the rebuilding team. He was hitting .211 with no homers and 12 RBIs.
The Braves claimed Hamilton off waivers to bolster their injury-plagued roster, which is missing outfielders Nick Markakis, Ender Inciarte and Austin Riley, along with shortstop Dansby Swanson. All are on the 10-day injured list, and only Riley seems close to getting back on the field.
For now, Hamilton will play a role off the bench, serving as a late-inning defensive replacement and pinch-runner. He had 18 stolen bases for the Royals.
Hamilton will take whatever playing time he can get.
“It’s like Christmas again,” he said with a smile. “It’s amazing to come here and be part of this winning organization.”
Hamilton spent six seasons in Cincinnati, where he was never much of a hitter but earned significant playing time with his speed and defensive prowess. He was a five-time finalist for the Gold Glove and had four straight seasons with more than 50 stolen bases.
“You’re talking about a guy with speed and a defender who can switch-hit,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I think he’ll be a good addition, especially late in the game when you start moving guys around to try and defend.”
The Braves made it clear that Hamilton won’t jump into a starting role. He is simply someone who can fill in the gaps while the team tries to work around the rash of injuries in its bid for a second straight NL East title.
“We talked to Billy about it when we signed him,” Snitker said. “He’s excited to be in a pennant race. He’ll do whatever he can to help.”
The 28-year-old Hamilton is eager to jump-start his career after flopping in Kansas City. He is making $4.25 million this year and has a $7.5 million mutual option for next season that includes a $1 million buyout.
“My hitting is where I want to get better, but that takes a little time. I’ll have the offseason for that.” he said. “I want to do whatever I can to help this team win. Whatever job they need me to do, I’ll do it. If I have to sit out a few games and then play defense, I’ll do it.”
Hamilton said his immediate goal is to show enough value that he is included on the Braves’ postseason roster.
“It’s not a given that I will be on the playoff roster,” he said. “My job is to come here and do what I can to be on that playoff roster.”