CINCINNATI -- I mentioned to Didi Gregorius that he was probably the guy responsible for the Billy Hamilton moving to center field.
“It wasn’t my decision,” Gregorius said. “But that’s how it worked out. I think they did a good job putting him in center field anyway. I don’t think he was going to play above (Zack) Cozart.”
A bit of background: Gregorius, now with the New York Yankees, was once a Reds farmhand. He began his pro career as a 17-old-year in 2007. The Reds drafted Hamilton in 2009. Both played shortstop. Gregorius played at the level above Hamilton from 2009 to 2012.
Gregorius was the superior defensive player, but Hamilton’s speed made him the more intriguing prospect.
After Hamilton stole a professional record 155 bases in 2012, the Reds were looking to fast track him to the big leagues. It wasn’t going to be at shortstop. Cozart was in the big leagues by then, and Gregorius' glove was big league-ready.
So when Gregorius and Hamilton were both sent to the Arizona Fall League following the ’12 season, Gregorius played shortstop and Hamilton played center field.
Gregorius was good enough at shortstop that the Arizona Diamondbacks traded for him shortly after the Fall League and made him their everyday shortstop.
The rest, as they stay, is history. Hamilton is one of the premium center fielders in baseball and Gregorius is the Yankees' starting shortstop.
Gregorius was back in town with the Yankees this week. The only Reds he knew from his days in the system were Cozart, Hamilton, Joey Votto and Devin Mesoraco.
That tells you how much turnover the Reds have had the last five years. The three-way trade that sent Gregorius to Arizona brought Shin-Soo Choo to the Reds Dec. 11, 2013.
It’s worked out for Gregorius as another three-team trade sent him to the Yankees, where he took over for retired Yankees legend Derek Jeter at short.
“Teams make a decision to trade you,” he said. “You’ve got to turn to the next chapter and then another chapter to get here. I’m just happy to be starting.”
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at email@example.com