CINCINNATI -- Billy Hamilton will continue to switch-hit this season — although somewhat reluctantly and maybe not permanently.
Hamilton considered becoming strictly a right-handed hitter this offseason. The Reds wanted him to keep hitting from both sides.
Is he OK with that?
“It’s tough for me to say,” Hamilton said. “Whatever they want me to do, I’m going to do. I’m going to go along with it as long as I can and see how I do. I don’t want to be in a situation like I was last year — not being comfortable with it. For sure, this time, if I’m not comfortable with it, I’m letting them know. I don’t want to be out there embarrassing myself, not playing as well as I could be playing. It’s something we looked into. They want me to stick with it. I’ll stick with it as long as I can.”
Hamilton, 25, hit .226 with a .274 on-percentage overall in 114 games before a right shoulder injury ended his season. He hit .241 right-handed and .220 left-handed. He slugged .371 right-handed and .241 left-handed.
The fact that the right side is Hamilton's strong side is compounded by the fact that most pitchers are right-handed. Hamilton made 331 of his 454 plate appearances from the left side.
He grew so frustrated he was ready to give up switch-hitting by June. The Reds convinced to do otherwise.
“It was decided during the season,” Hamilton said. “I was at point in the season where I wanted to stop doing it. I talked to them. They were like, 'We think you can do it.' I’m going to ride with it as long as I can.”
Hitting coach Don Long thinks being committed to switch-hitting is key.
“The main requirement — he hasn’t been doing it his whole life — you’ve got to be all in,” Long said. “You’ve got to say, 'I’ve got the talent, I’m going to figure out a way to master this.'
“We all encouraged him to keep doing it. We think it’s an advantage for him. I hope he believes he can do it.”
Reds shortstop Eugenio Suarez was a switch-hitter in the minors with Detroit.
“The Tigers wanted me to stop from the left side,” he said. “I liked it. I wanted to keep trying. But that’s what they wanted.”
The plan for Hamilton this offseason was to work with Hall of Famer Rod Carew in Southern California. The start of that was delayed by Hamilton’s shoulder injury. Then Carew suffered a heart attack.
“My training schedule got changed to Cincinnati,” Hamilton said. “I was looking forward all offseason to getting out to LA. Stuff happens. I’m praying for him.”
Hamilton is staying in Cincinnati after Redsfest to rehab and work with Billy Hatcher.
“Hatcher thinks he can help me,” Hamilton said. “We’ll go from there. . . It wasn’t his role (before).”
Monday will be start of baseball activity for Hamilton.
“I’m staying here, working out with Brandon (Phillips) and (Devin) Mesoraco. I’m going to do my rehab here,” he said. “I talked to the doctor today, and he said I could do everything besides throwing. I can hit and all that stuff, and do baseball activities.
“Just no throwing yet. That’s a good sign. I’m starting on Monday. I’ll start hitting. He gave me the OK.”
Hamilton said he hasn’t had any setbacks while rehabbing in Mississippi. But he thinks coming to Cincinnati will help.
“Coming back here, I know [physical therapist Christy Sweeney] does a really good job,” Hamilton said. “I’m looking forward to working with her. I’ll do baseball stuff in the morning and do therapy afterward.
“It’s my first time in Cincy in the offseason. I’m looking forward to it. When I was in the minor leagues, I used to work out with Sean Marohr in conditioning camp. He had my body feeling great the whole season. He’s here. He’s going to put me through a workout like I did in the minor leagues.”
The first order of business is getting healthy. Hamilton injured his shoulder in mid-August. He returned, but after it flared up, he had surgery Sept. 21. He says the time off will help.
“That’s what I think,” he said. “The doctor said I’ll be perfectly fine. He’s the doctor. I trust him. I expect to be ready to go. I’ll work hard this month so when January comes and I start throwing, I’m ready.
“I talked to (Zack) Cozart about it. He had the same thing. He said you can’t be afraid. I know when I get a chance to throw, I’ll be afraid. He said don’t be afraid.”
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