Price drops Hamilton to 8th in Reds' lineup

Former leadoff man drove in two runs Sunday, says he feels less pressure

Price drops Hamilton to 8th in Reds' lineup

CINCINNATI -- The Reds usually post their lineup near both entrances of the home clubhouse for their players to see when they walk in each day. On Sunday morning, prior to the Reds' 9-8 loss to the Giants, manager Bryan Price delayed displaying it so he could personally alert center fielder Billy Hamilton about a decision he had made.

For the time being, Hamilton is not the leadoff hitter and has been dropped to the eighth spot. Shortstop Zack Cozart batted first for the second-straight game after Hamilton was given a day off on Saturday.

"I wanted to talk to [Hamilton] about my expectations moving forward before he walked in," Price said before the series finale vs. the Giants. "That's pretty dramatic, considering he's hit leadoff every single game I've had him here in the regular season. I just wanted to sit him down and talk to him before we posted the lineup."

In 34 games this season, Hamilton is batting only .214 with a .263 on-base percentage that ranks near the bottom of the league among leadoff hitters who qualify. In Sunday's loss, he was 1-for-3 with a fifth-inning single and had two RBIs on a fielder's choice in the second inning and sacrifice fly in the third.

Hamilton accepted the demotion without complaint.

"You've got to roll with it. When you're playing like I'm playing, you can't do anything about it," Hamilton said. "It's not going to put me in a bad situation -- my confidence is still there. It's a spot in the lineup. I'm still happy to just be in the lineup. It's been tough this year so far and everything, but it's his decision."

Before Sunday, Hamilton made 171 of 172 career starts batting in the leadoff spot, with the lone exception being when he batted ninth at Houston in his first Major League start in 2013.

Hamilton's sacrifice fly

Price indicated that batting Hamilton eighth would not be a one-time thing.

"Just trying to get some guys on base for the middle of the order guys and take a little bit of the load off," Price said. "There's this whole thing we're always saying with Billy: 'You go, we go.' It really shouldn't be that way -- when we're going, it's because we're all going. Because we're all doing what we need to be doing collectively well. I think it'd be really nice to have Billy doing some things down at the bottom, maybe helping set the table for the top of the order."

As a rookie last season, Hamilton got off to a strong start but faded in the second half. His overall on-base percentage was .292, too low to be acceptable for the leadoff spot. This season, he has worked hard at trying to get on base more, especially with extra bunting drills, but it has not translated into results.

Hamilton believes he could see a turnaround batting eighth.

"Putting me down there, I can just go there and hit and not worry about being the leadoff man," Hamilton said. "Leadoff comes with a lot of things. You take pitches, you have to do all this stuff."

Price believed Hamilton's long-term future was still in the leadoff spot.

"I think he's inevitably going to be an outstanding leadoff man," Price said. "Until he really gets comfortable with his offensive game, I think he's better suited where he's at right now."

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