Billy Hamilton made a sensational catch on the first play of Thursday's game. Unfortunately, it was also his last.
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Hamilton left Thursday's game against the Brewers with sprained third and fourth knuckles on his left hand after making the diving catch in the top of the first inning. Hamilton was replaced by Chris Heisey in center field.
After the game, Reds manager Bryan Price said it wasn't the first time this season Hamilton has had an issue with the hand.
“He dove for a ball and jammed his fingers, and unfortunately, it was the same hand he had jammed earlier in the year in New York [on April 4],” Price said. “We’re optimistic it will only be a day or two. But again, you never know until you see him in a day or two. We won’t anticipate him playing tomorrow, or at least starting in the outfield. But there are probably some things he can do to help us win a game.”
The timing is especially tough for the 23-year-old, who was turning it on at the plate in recent weeks. After scuffling to start the season and bottoming out at .140/.178/.209 on April 14, Hamilton settled in and posted a .333/.364/.431 line with a home run, 10 runs scored and nine stolen bases in his last 14 games.
There's no reason to think the injury will affect Hamilton's hitting when he does return -- Hamilton's game relies on putting the ball in play and using his speed to reach base, not muscling up and hitting for extra bases. But it would be unfortunate if the layoff has an adverse effect on his timing at the plate.
In the meantime, Hamilton's spot in center will most likely be manned by Heisey. Heisey made waves this spring when he belted six home runs to tie for the Cactus League lead, and he's batting .277 with a .703 OPS in 47 at-bats this season. Roger Bernadina could also see a start in Hamilton's absence. Either way, the Reds are hopeful Hamilton is ready to return by early next week at the latest.
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Elias Shuts Down Yanks
Another player who had a strong spring, Roenis Elias, made another statement Thursday.
Taking on the Yankees in Yankee Stadium, no small task for a guy making his sixth career start, Elias held the Bronx Bombers to two runs -- one earned -- over seven innings Thursday. What's more, the 25-year-old struck out 10 over his seven innings, walking two and giving up six hits.
"Best I've seen him," said catcher Mike Zunino. "He's a guy that definitely feeds off a lot of energy, and what better place to do it? The last two to three starts he's been feeling really confident with the breaking ball along with the changeup, so with him being able to go along and do that today just shows how good he is."
After a spring in which he posted a 2.38 ERA over 22 2/3 innings, Elias is 2-2 with a 3.09 ERA and 31/16 K/BB ratio over 35 innings to begin the year. He made the club largely due to injuries to Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker, but Elias won't be going anywhere when Iwakuma makes his season debut Saturday.
Elias needs to be owned in AL-only leagues while he's still got a rotation spot, and deep mixed leaguers with shallow free agent pools could do worse than the southpaw. He's owned in just 3 percent of Yahoo leagues, but more starts like Thursday's will surely change that in a hurry.
Johnson Gets Three Hits, Three-Year Extension
Chris Johnson had a good day Thursday.
The Braves' third baseman was reported to be nearing a three-year contract extension prior to Thursday's game, and as an incentive to get the Braves to sign the deal -- or possibly as a way to squeeze a few more dollars out of the club in the 11th hour (joking, of course) -- Johnson went out and finished the game 3-for-3 with a walk. He'd been 1-for-16 in his previous six games heading into Thursday's action.
After hitting .321 and contending for a batting title last season, the 29-year-old is hitting an ugly .255/.290/.351 through a month and a day this year. His true batting average is likely somewhere in between those two numbers -- his .321 mark last year was buoyed by a .394 BABIP -- but he should also begin hitting for more power after sending just one home run over the boards in April.
The terms of his extension aren't yet known, but assuming the deal gets done he'll be the latest in a line of Braves to get contract extensions in 2014. The team also locked up Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel, Julio Teheran and Andrelton Simmons over the winter. Combine that with the team's control over its young pitchers and the years remaining on the Uptons' deals, and the core of a good Atlanta squad is in line to remain together for the foreseeable future.
National League Quick Hits: The Reds placed Tony Cingrani on the 15-day disabled list with mild shoulder tendinitis. The left-hander told reporters he didn't feel as though he needed a DL stint, so he should be ready for activation as soon as his 15 days are up ... Carlos Gonzalez is day-to-day with a left finger contusion. It's not the same finger or hand that gave him trouble last season, but the fact remains -- CarGo is the definition of injury prone ... Aroldis Chapman (face) hit 101 mph in a scoreless first rehab appearance with Low-A Dayton ... Yasiel Puig enjoyed a productive Thursday, 6-for-10 with two RBI and a stolen base in the Dodgers' doubleheader sweep ... Nolan Arenado extended his hitting streak to 22 games with a single off Bartolo Colon in the bottom of the third inning ... Jean Segura went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored in his return to the Brewers lineup ... Juan Nicasio threw seven shutout innings in a win over the Mets ... Wilin Rosario (hand) returned to the Rockies lineup Thursday ... Rafael Furcal (hamstring, groin) will resume his rehab assignment with Double-A Jacksonville on Friday. It shouldn't be long before he's back with the Fish.
American League Quick Hits: Manny Machado returned to action -- finally -- in the second game of the Orioles' doubleheader Thursday. He finished 0-for-5 at the dish in his first game since last season ... Matt Wieters didn't go hitless in the game, delivering a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Orioles a win over the Pirates. The O's took both games of Thursday's doubleheader with the walk-off victory ... Aaron Hicks left Thursday's Game 2 with concussion-like symptoms. Hicks banged into the center field wall trying to make a leaping catch, hitting his head in the process ... Mark Buehrle got his fifth win of the season, tying for the league lead, after holding the Royals to two earned runs over 6 2/3 innings of work ... the Angels will recall INF Grant Green before Friday's game. He was hitting .365/.412/.529 in 25 games with Triple-A Salt Lake before the promotion, and he's a worthy pickup AL-only leagues ... Astros signed LHP Tony Sipp to a one-year deal ... Samuel Deduno could soon take the rotation spot of Mike Pelfrey, who struggled again Thursday. Deduno threw four innings in relief Thursday, so he wouldn't take much to get stretched out as a starter.