Hamilton returns from DL, eyes steals crown

Hamilton returns from DL, eyes steals crown

CINCINNATI -- Even if he wasn't in the starting lineup vs. the Cardinals on Wednesday, Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton was a happy man. Hamilton was activated from the 10-day disabled list after he had been out with a fractured left thumb.

"Today's been like Christmas for me, to get back out there," Hamilton said.

Reds manager Bryan Price plans to have Hamilton available for pinch-running duty initially. Hamilton did get to take batting practice on the field for the first time since he fractured his thumb Sept. 6 while trying to bunt vs. the Brewers. His hand was placed in a brace until it was removed on Sunday.

Hamilton publicly voiced his displeasure on Tuesday that he hadn't been cleared to take BP after he had been pain-free and passed other tests like playing catch and hitting off a tee. Price appreciated the desire to play, but explained that the club was trying to protect Hamilton from re-injury.

"The issue is you can't have a splint on your hand on Sunday and expect to be in the lineup on Tuesday after a day off," Price said. "A setback here right now would basically, for all intents and purposes, end his season, and we'd like to avoid that."

"It's hard to hold back. I know that's their job to make sure I'm good, make sure that I come back at the right time," Hamilton said. "As a player, you just want to rush it. I understand how Bryan does a great job."

Injuries in September have cut short each of Hamilton's four full seasons in the Major Leagues. It has cost him chances to lead the league in steals, and it could happen again in 2017. While Hamilton entered the night with 58 steals, Miami's Dee Gordon has gained ground and is at 55.

"That's one of the honors I'd love to have," Hamilton said. "We've got two weeks and everybody's letting me know he's only three behind, so I've got to do what I can to keep it."

Worth noting

• Lefty reliever Wandy Peralta retired the only two batters he faced in the seventh inning during Tuesday's 8-7 loss to the Cardinals. It was his first action since he sustained a right hip flexor strain on Sept. 2.

"I'd love to see him finish these last 11 games healthy and throwing the ball well. I think he can still impact us in a real good way like he did yesterday," Price said.

• The Reds knew catcher Devin Mesoraco likely wouldn't catch again this season after he went on the DL Aug. 15 with a fractured left foot. But Price noted Mesoraco likely won't get back to serve as a pinch-hitter as initially hoped.

"His foot hasn't progressed as rapidly as it would have needed to get to the point where he could play before the season is out," Price said. "And it's not because he's behind schedule. Everything had to go right.

"Knock on wood, there's a chance to be a real offseason for Devin, as opposed to a full-time rehab as it's been the last couple of years."

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.