Hamilton out vs. Cubs with finger injury

Hamilton out vs. Cubs with finger injury

CHICAGO -- With Cubs ace Jon Lester's struggles to stop the running game and Reds' leadoff man Billy Hamilton being one of the biggest basestealing threats in the game, Monday's series opener at Wrigley Field had the makings of a strong subplot.

It was not to be, however, as Hamilton was out of the starting lineup with a minor injury to his left index finger. Kristopher Negron started in center field and batted first in his place.

"It's just sore. I can play. It's their decision, to rest it or not. I can do everything I can," Hamilton said. "It's early in the season. No use in pushing it right now."

Hamilton hurt his finger on Friday vs. the Cardinals on a head-first slide into second base while stealing in the eighth inning. He went on to score the game-winning run, and he played Saturday and Sunday. In Sunday's 7-5 loss to St. Louis in 11 innings, Hamilton hit a solo homer in the fifth inning.

Manager Bryan Price made the call on sitting Hamilton, despite the potential advantage on the bases vs. Lester. Hamilton was available from the bench, however.

"Billy laid it all out there for those first six games," Price said. "We're trying to keep him fresh. He'll be in there for sure [Tuesday]. He can play today, but as opposed to letting something become more significant I felt like giving Negron a start made more sense. If [Hamilton] was 100 percent completely, he'd be playing today."

Hamilton is 7-for-7 in steals, doing that in the first four games. That made only the player besides Vince Coleman in 1987 to have seven or more stolen bases in his first four games of a season in the modern era.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.