Hamilton focused on 'getting more at-bats'

Post-surgery, center fielder confident he'll be ready for Opening Day

Hamilton focused on 'getting more at-bats'

PHOENIX -- Following a setback to his surgically repaired right shoulder, Billy Hamilton waited most of Spring Training to get his chance to play center field again for the Reds. When it finally came on Friday vs. the Brewers, it wasn't action-packed, but it was still satisfying.

Hamilton fielded one base hit in the first inning and caught a routine fly ball in the third in Cincinnati's 7-6 win over Milwaukee. His stint in the game spanned five innings total, and he went 0-for-3 at the plate.

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"I didn't really get tested today out there where I can throw the ball really, really hard," Hamilton said. "But when I've been throwing and warming up and everything, my arm has been feeling really good."

Upon having arthroscopic surgery on the shoulder in September, Hamilton knew he likely wouldn't be 100 percent by the start of camp, but he arrived close. Then he suffered a setback when he felt sore following his March 2 spring debut as the designated hitter. Hamilton did not return to the lineup again until Tuesday, when he was used again at DH.

"It's fun being out there to run around the outfield and get back to being used to it. I felt like I hadn't been out there in forever," he said. "Today was one of those days you always look forward to, especially when you're coming off of an injury. You look forward to the day you can get back out there and able to be in action with your team, not just DH, but actually be out there and with them. Today was a good day for me. I wish I could have gotten more balls and test my arm out a little more."

The Reds have been fortunate to get some of their key players back from injuries. In the past week, shortstop Zack Cozart (knee) and catcher Devin Mesoraco (hip) both made their spring debuts following 2015 surgeries. They are expected to be ready for Opening Day on April 4 vs. the Phillies.

Hamilton, who has been working on his shoulder with the training and strength staff all spring, felt he would also have enough time to be ready for Opening Day.

"There's always room to go down and get more at-bats," Hamilton said. "That's all that I'm really worried about right now, just getting more at-bats. I can go to the Minor Leagues and get a few hits and here get a few at-bats. Making sure my arm is healthy is the main thing. I look forward to the next couple of weeks."

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.