Reds notes: Hamilton gets tough lesson from Wainwright

Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman rides with his daughter Ashanti in the annual opening day parade, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Cincinnati.

 

David Kohl/AP

CINCINNATI – The Billy Hamilton era has officially gotten underway, and it started out in the toughest way imaginable for the Reds centerfielder.

Hamilton struck out in all four of his plate appearances against St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright in Monday’s 1-0 loss to the Cardinals at Great American Ball Park in the season opener for both teams.

Hamilton struck out looking on a cut fastball in the first inning and struck out swinging on Wainwright curveballs his final three at-bats in the third, fifth and seventh innings.

Wainwright has made many batters look overmatched against his curveball throughout his career. Hamilton had never faced Wainwright previously.

“He’s a great pitcher,” said Hamilton. “You can watch against other guys but you can’t watch him against yourself because you’ve never faced him before. He’s a great pitcher.”

Hamilton saw 17 pitches from Wainwright in his four at-bats. Only twice did Wainwright throw him straight fastballs, and those came in his final time at the plate. Hamilton wasn’t the only Reds batter to have problems with Wainwright. He struck out nine Cincinnati batters in seven innings while allowing just three hits, none after the fourth inning.

“All of his stuff was working,” said Hamilton. “It’s just a learning stone for me. Tomorrow I’m going to have to get better. I’ll be all right.”

Hamilton had as good of a spring training camp as the Reds could have asked of him, hitting .327 with an on-base percentage of .381, as he takes over the job in centerfield from Shin-Soo Choo but now that the regular season has started his true test begins.

Hamilton didn’t want to talk about his first opening day experience while camp was still going on in Arizona but he admitted during a pre-game press conference Monday, while sitting with veterans Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwick, that he had a tough time sleeping last night.

“At spring training the last few days I had the mindset that I still had stuff to do,” said Hamilton.

“Today is a big day for me. I’m very excited about it and want to get it going. I’ve got these guys with me here helping me out, keeping me humble, keeping me down so I’m excited about it.”

WARM WELCOME: Aroldis Chapman wasn’t going to be involved in Opening Day the way he wanted on Monday but given what took place 12 days ago in Surprise, Ariz., it’s a minor miracle that Chapman was in Cincinnati at all.

It hasn’t been two weeks yet since a line drive hit Chapman in the face during a Cactus League game against the Kansas City Royals but Monday he rode in the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade and was in uniform jogging out to the first base line as the team was introduced prior to the game.

Talk about therapy for the soul. Chapman has been getting all kinds of well wishes and thoughts since his injury and subsequent surgery to place a titanium plate on his skull above his left eye and nasal area on March 21. Monday he got those delivered in person.

“I feel really happy and proud. I cannot feel better. Today it was real loud going through the street. They were cheering for me and giving me good wishes. I feel really happy to hear those things,” said Chapman before the game through assistant trainer Tomas Vera, his interpreter. “I cannot feel better. I cannot ask for better the way that I am right now. I feel almost normal. I want to say thank you not just to the people who write me. The people of Cincinnati, my fans, the people here, they’ve been so great with me. I feel great.”

Chapman still hasn’t begun any baseball activities. He’s under doctor’s orders to continue resting and letting his body heal before he starts working on getting back on the mound. The Reds placed him on the 15-day disabled list to start the season, retroactive to the date of his surgery, and are hoping he will be able to return to the active roster sometime in May. The original prognosis was that he should be out 6-8 weeks.

He said he is next scheduled to visit the doctor on Wednesday.

While he was grateful for being as involved as he was and for his overall condition, Chapman would rather be available to pitch.

“Truly I cannot happy because I am not here the way I want to be here,” said Chapman. “I’m happy because I’m here, I’m here with my friends, I’m here with the other players and I’m happy that at least I’m here but I wish I could be (playing).”

BARNHART CALLED UP: The Reds would prefer that top catching prospect Tucker Barnhart hone his craft at Triple-A Louisville this season but the 23-year-old from Brownsburg, Ind., is with the big club because of an oblique injury to Devin Mesoraco.

Brayan Pena is going to get the majority of playing time while Mesoraco is on the 15-day DL but Barnhart will get his shot at some point.

“We know that he can receive and throw and block. He calls a good game. Our pitchers enjoy throwing to him,” said manager Bryan Price. “There is no reluctance whatsoever to have him on our team working with our pitching staff and I think he’ll do a phenomenal job and give us great support until we get Devin back.”

Barnhart began the spring in the Reds major league camp but was sent down to the minor league camp on March 14 to give him more playing time while Mesoraco, Pena and Corky Miller handled the major league club. While playing with the Louisville team, Barnhart got to catch games by Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto as they came back from injuries.

“I felt like I was going down to the minor league camp to prepare myself for this situation and I feel like I’m ready for it,” said Barnhart. “I hadn’t caught Homer in a game before and I hadn’t caught Johnny in a game, either. Just knowing what they like to do and knowing what their tendencies are and stuff like that definitely helps and prepares me for this situation.”

HEARD AROUND TOWN: This is the sixth Opening Day in Cincinnati for Jay Bruce. There is one aspect he hasn’t gotten to experience in his time: the parade.

“There’s some anticipation there. You work through spring training and it becomes a little bit monotonous but you come here and there are some butterflies,” said Bruce. “The city of Cincinnati, I’ve been fortunate to be here and spend all of my opening days here, and it’s very special. It really is. They’ve got a parade that I’ve never seen or been a part of but I hear it’s great.”