Billy Hamilton has seen the social media pleas, but they are not why he’s suddenly focusing on bunts.
The speedy center fielder sparked Cincinnati’s four-run, seventh-inning rally in Monday’s 4-2 win over St. Louis with a well-placed bunt about 10 feet inside the first-base line. Pitcher Carlos Martinez scrambled but couldn’t make the barehanded grab and Hamilton was safe.
Though he was safe, Hamilton was not particularly impressed with the bunt.
“You want it to be as perfect as you want — down the first- or third-base line, not back at the pitcher,” he said before Tuesday’s game.
Hamilton’s recent improvement in the art stems primarily from increased focus, he said.
“Before, I would go up there and try to run and bunt at the same time,” he said. “Now, I’m focusing on bunting first, then running. It’s more about getting it down first. Yesterday’s bunt wasn’t a good bunt, but it was good enough. For me, wanting to focus on it and wanting to do it helped a lot. It takes some of the pressure off of me hitting.”
Manager Bryan Price revealed that more bunting had been suggested to Hamilton.
“He’s got so many elements to his offensive game that it’s hard to focus on one, but yes, it’s something that was emphasized, but not over-emphasized,” Price said.
It also helps to be thinking bunt even before stepping to the plate, as he did Monday.
“Yeah, I knew I wanted to bunt that,” he said. “Previously, I’d go up there thinking ‘hit or bunt.’ If you want to bunt, you’ve got to think ‘bunt.’
Even though he’s baseball’s fastest player, Hamilton actually believes bunting is more difficult for him.
“For me, it’s way tougher,” he said. “For one thing, the infield’s in at all times. It feels like you have to get a perfect bunt down every time. You can’t go up there and just bunt it and expect to beat it out. Those guys are major leaguers, too.
“Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been feeling good. I’m excited about getting more bunts into my game.”
Social media critics don’t factor the opposition into the equation, he said.
“They think you can just go out there and bunt and be safe every time,” he said. “They think those are kids playing first base and kids playing third base. That’s what they think.”
Cingrani back: Left-handed relief pitcher Tony Cingrani was reinstated from the 10-day disabled list. Cingrani, sidelined since April 21 with a right oblique strain, made three minor-league rehab appearances.
The emergence of left-hander Wandy Peralta as a capable reliever gives Price some flexibility in deploying Cingrani.
“We’re not going to immediately plug him into a situation where he has to get the biggest out – not that he couldn’t handle that – but we’ll try to work him in in some less-stressful situations,” Price said. “We’d like to give him a softer landing.”
Cingrani, 27, had a 1.93 earned-run average in five games before his injury. Peralta, a 25-year-old rookie, was 2-1 with a 2.96 ERA going into Tuesday’s game.
Down two: Price’s Tuesday lineup was missing regular corner outfielders Scott Schebler and Adam Duvall.
Price was being cautious with Schebler, who left Saturday’s game in the top of the sixth inning with a strained left shoulder he suffered while making a diving catch. The right fielder did a full set of baseball-related activities before Tuesday’s game.
“Nothing’s changed,” Schebler said. “I talked to Bryan, and he said he wants me to go through a full day of feeling great. I did everything today. I’m able to do anything off the bench they need me to do (Tuesday).”
“I think he could play today, but I try to make a habit to try to get them as close to 100 percent as possible,” Price said. “We could use him in any form off the bench, but this way, Gennett gets another chance to play.”
Duvall, who had a four-game hitting streak and threw out two runners Monday, was just getting a day off.
“He’s played every game for a month, and this gives me a chance to get (Patrick) Kivlehan in there,” Price said. “I didn’t know if we’d have Schebler back or not, but we wanted to give (Duvall) a day.”
Game 3: Right-hander Bronson Arroyo (3-4), coming off a solid start Friday against Atlanta, is Cincinnati’s scheduled starter in the third game of the four-game series against the Cardinals on Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. Right-hander Lance Lynn (4-3) is due to start for St. Louis.