Neither player is expected to be with Reds during road trip
By Mark Sheldon
CHICAGO -- Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton and shortstop Zack Cozart have not been in Chicago this week as they rehab from their injuries. They won't be in Milwaukee on Friday when the road trip moves on and aren't expected to be in St. Louis after that series. In all likelihood, their seasons are finished, but the book hasn't formally been closed.
"I think we're so far removed now from baseball activity," manager Bryan Price said on Wednesday. "We're getting to that point where the realism portion of this deal is fading real fast -- for both."
Hamilton hasn't played since Sept. 4, when he strained his left oblique muscle taking a check swing vs. the Cardinals. Cozart last appeared in a game on Sept. 10 at Pittsburgh, but he has missed the last 11 games because of soreness in his surgically-repaired right knee.
"If we could have gotten Zack or Billy to 100 percent, and get them enough reps, then I would think they should play," Price said. "I just think that's the right thing to do. I think it's unlikely for the two position players that they will be able to get there before the season is done, and have enough baseball activity to merit putting them on the field again."
Hamilton was having the best offensive stretch of his career in the second half as he batted .293 with a .369 on-base percentage after the All-Star break. He batted .260 with a .321 OBP in 119 games overall with 58 stolen bases. Hamilton is likely to relinquish his Major League lead in stolen bases to Jonathan Villar of the Brewers, who entered Wednesday with 57.
Cozart is batting .252/.308/.425 with a career-high 16 home runs and 50 RBIs in 121 games after a 2015 season that prematurely ended when he needed reconstructive right knee surgery.
Arbitration-eligible for the first time this coming offseason, Hamilton is expected to return next season. It's a little bit of a hazier situation for Cozart, whom the Reds explored trading before the non-waiver Trade Deadline. He is third-year arb-eligible, which puts him a year away from potential free agency. The Reds also need a spot for Jose Peraza, who has shown he is ready to play every day. But a recurrence of knee soreness could make moving the 31-year-old more difficult.
The news remains more optimistic for Reds pitcher Homer Bailey (right biceps tenderness), who threw his third bullpen session on Tuesday. It's possible that Bailey could start on Sunday vs. the Brewers. If it's not Bailey, it will be either Brandon Finnegan or Tim Adleman.
"We haven't made a commitment to that yet," Price said. "Part of that is seeing how Homer comes through his bullpen session."
The decision will be made after a meeting with Price, president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty, pitching coach Mack Jenkins and the medical staff.
"Even though he is looking good, organizationally we have to have a collective feeling," Price said. "I believe if he's 100 percent healthy, and he's deemed healthy, I'd like him to pitch. That's my opinion, that's not representative of the organization. If he's not or this is any concern whatsoever, then we won't pitch him. I would be completely on board with that as well."
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. 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.