Hamilton off and running for Bats

Reds top prospect steals first three bases at Triple-A

By Jonathan Raymond / Special to MLB.com | April 5, 2013 8:03 PM ET

As one of Triple-A Louisville's youngest, most exciting players was announcing his presence Friday, one of the Bats' elder statesmen was making noise of his own.

Reds top prospect Billy Hamilton, in just his second game with the Bats, did the kind of things that gained so much notoriety during his record-breaking 2012 season. Meanwhile, 35-year-old Mike Hessman put on a power display for the second straight game as he built on a personal milestone.

The duo combined to lead Louisville to its second straight win to open the season, a 6-4 triumph over the visiting Toledo Mud Hens.

Hamilton, MLB.com's No. 11 overall prospect, got on the board with his first steal of the season in the opening inning, swiping third base after a leadoff double. One batter later, as Emmanuel Burriss was picked off first and caught in a rundown, Hamilton broke for the plate and scored.

Following a fourth-inning single, Hamilton stole another base. He may have kept up the thievery, were it not for the fact that he pulled up a bit lame after diving back to second on a pickoff attempt.

Bats manager Jim Riggleman said he took Hamilton out of the game with what appeared to be a cramp, adding that the prized prospect should return to the lineup over the weekend.

Before that, the Billy Hamilton show was something to see, he said.

"It was very impressive. Billy is unique," noted Riggleman, who managed Hamilton a year ago at Double-A Pensacola. "He's fearless out there, putting pressure on people. The key for him is to get on base, and he got on base a couple of times. If he gets on, he can do some good times. We're thrilled with what he's doing."

Hamilton finished 2-for-3 before being replaced by pinch-runner Josh Fellhauer.

Hessman recorded his second straight two-homer game. His two blasts on the Opening Night gave the 18-year veteran 400 career homers across the Minors, Majors and during a stint in Japan.

On Friday night, he gave lift to Nos. 401 and 402 against a Toledo team with which he spent five seasons from 2005-09.

"It's always fun, never gets old, that's for sure," Hessman said. "And it's always fun playing against your old team, getting a couple home runs. I had some great relationships over there.

"I'm proud of it. Obviously, it means I've been around a long time. I've been able to stay healthy and have some opportunities to keep playing the game. I've been blessed, never taken anything for granted."

Denis Phipps added a two-run shot in the first for the Bats, who got a pair of doubles from Jason Donald.

Former All-Star Mark Prior, who signed a Minor League contract with Cincinnati as he makes a bid to return to the Major Leagues as a reliever, struck out one in a perfect eighth for the Bats.

Tigers No. 2 prospect Bruce Rondon turned in a scoreless ninth for the Mud Hens, walking one and fanning one.

Jonathan Raymond is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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