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IL notes: Hamilton has plenty on plate

After breaking steals record, Reds prospect focused on hitting
June 3, 2013

While Billy Hamilton is unlikely to surpass the single-season stolen base record he set in 2012, his first year in Triple-A may end up being more important for his development into a Major League player.

From working on his left-handed swing to making the move from the infield to the outfield, Louisville's speedy leadoff hitter has plenty on his plate in 2013.

Last season, Hamilton stole 155 bases to break Vince Coleman's 30-year-old record. He said having the record has allowed him to work on other parts of his game.

"When I got the record, it was more of a relief," Hamilton admitted. "You have your family, your teammates, everyone saying, 'Go and get the record.' I tried to keep calm and play my game. I tried to relax, get on base and do what I have to do."

Jim Riggleman, his manager last season at Double-A Pensacola and this year in Louisville, also thinks breaking the record took some of the weight off Hamilton's shoulders.

"We're glad that the record is set and that it's behind him," Riggleman said. "It didn't happen a lot, but every once in a while we were in that gray area of whether you should run or not, based on the score and the inning. Sometimes the unwritten rules of the game tell you when to shut it down.

"I never saw Billy abuse that, but there were a couple of times where we were losing, his run didn't mean as much and we allowed him to run. In the big leagues, that's not going to happen. It's something he will adjust to -- just because you can steal a base doesn't mean that you should."

One thing Hamilton has worked on is his hitting, especially from the left side of the plate. The 22-year-old batted .205 in April, but he hit .279 in May to lift his season totals to .248 with two homers and 16 RBIs.

"He's naturally a right-handed hitter, and from that side of the plate he's pretty accomplished," Riggleman said. "The left-handed swing is more of a work-in-progress.

His adjustment from shortstop, where he played ever since the Reds selected him in the second round of the 2009 Draft, to center field has been easier.

"I've played shortstop all of my life," Hamilton said. "When they asked me to move to center field, I thought, 'Whatever gets me to the big leagues faster, that's what I'm going to do.'

"The first game I played in the outfield in the Arizona Fall League was a lot of fun. It's a lot of running, and it's not as easy moving from the infield to the outfield as people might think it is."

The one constant has been Hamilton's speed, something that shows up in areas beyond his International League-leading 30 steals.

"It doesn't have to be just stolen bases," Riggleman said. "He can score from first on doubles, turn balls in the gaps into triples and score on ground balls in the infield. His speed plays, period."

In brief

Shuttin 'em down: One of the reasons Indianapolis has the best record in the IL this season is the work of its bullpen. Closer Vic Black has 11 saves and a 2.63 ERA, thanks in part to 33 strikeouts over 24 innings, but he's only one reliever experiencing success. RHP Ryan Reid is 6-1 with one save and a 0.52 ERA, having allowed just 20 hits and nine walks in 34 2/3 innings. RHP Jared Hughes is 1-0 with a 0.90 ERA, having given up eight hits over 13 innings. And RHP Tim Alderson is 2-0 with a 2.75 ERA in nine relief appearances.

What a difference a month makes: After struggling in April, Norfolk 1B Travis Ishikawa hated to see May end. He hit .213 with no homers and four RBIs in 21 April games, then exploded last month to bat .413 with seven homers and 24 RBIs in 21 contests. All three of those totals ranked second in the IL for the month.

He said it: "[The Twins] were hoping [Vance Worley] could come down, go deep into games and be aggressive with all of his pitches. As much as it is about command, it's about staying down in the strike zone and being able to change planes with his off-speed pitches." -- Red Wings manager Gene Glynn to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle on May 26. Worley, the Twins' Opening Day starter, was demoted to Rochester after starting the season 1-5 with a 7.91 ERA. In his first Triple-A start, Worley threw a five-hit shutout to beat Lehigh Valley.

He said it, part II: "[I was] trying to go out and take it one day at a time, instead of trying to get five hits in one at-bat to get back on track. Go out and take positives out of every at-bat and go up every at-bat as if it's my first of the season or I'm 0-for-0 that day instead of thinking, 'I'm 0-for-3, I've got to get a hit here.' Just do something positive every single night. That's kind of been my mind-set. If I don't, don't carry it over to the next at-bat and the next at-bat. It's been working." -- Red Sox IF Brock Holt to the Providence Journal. Holt was batting .172 on May 15 but has hit .436 since, collecting at least one hit in all but one of the 16 games he's started, to give him a .268 batting average for the season.

John Wagner is a contributor to