MILWAUKEE -- One of Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton's best weapons, of course, is his speed, and using it when putting balls in play. One component to do that is the bunt, when it's effective. Over the past week on four occasions, including twice on Friday, Hamilton tried bunting for hits and was retired. Entering Sunday, he was 6-for-22 when attempting to bunt.
Hamilton still works on his bunting with coach Billy Hatcher.
"Guys like him have to continue to improve his bunting technique," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "Brett Butler was so good not just because he was a good bunter, [but] even with the infield in, the infield way in, he was so adept at putting the ball right where it needed to be placed. Maybe it's getting the ball down into the dirt closer to home plate so it gets a higher hop and doesn't get to the infielders as quickly and forces the catcher to have to make a great play.
"[Hamilton has] got to continue to do it. It's part of his game. The other part of it is, he's actually increased the size of the infield as a hitter in the sense they don't have nearly the same amount of infield coverage there. He's got to keep the ball out of the air."
Hamilton entered Sunday's finale against the Brewers with a .257 average, and his .296 on-base percentage is below the usual acceptable standard for most leadoff hitters.
"It's a process for him learning here," Price said. "We knew if he made our club, he'd have to continue to grow as an outfielder, as a base runner, as a bunter, [putting up] more competitive at-bats, laying off the low breaking ball like [Adam] Wainwright in the first game of the year when he struck him out four times on that low breaking ball under the zone.
"Unless he's here working on it, he's down in [Triple-A] Louisville, even if he has a good year, he hasn't necessarily slayed the beast here at the big league level. So, he's doing a lot of on-the-job training right now."
Hamilton could conceivably bat seventh or eighth and continue to learn on the job, but the Reds lack other practical options for the leadoff spot. Price has never wavered about writing Hamilton's name at the top of the order.
"Not at all, zero," he said.
Votto off to solid start since return from DL
MILWAUKEE -- The sample size of offense is still on the small side since Reds first baseman Joey Votto returned from the disabled list. But it's still an encouraging sign that Votto has been productive.
After he missed nearly a month with a left quadriceps strain, Votto notched hits in each of his first six games back, including Sunday against the Brewers, and has three two-hit games.
"I feel good. It's been a bit of an adjustment coming back but I feel totally fine," Votto said before Sunday's game.
Both of the left-handed-hitting Votto's doubles were hit to the opposite field, which has historically been part of his approach and a sign he's more dialed in at the plate. He also hasn't appeared to be favoring his leg when he's running.
To Votto, the biggest signs that he's feeling better are ones that most fans can't see because they don't happen in the games.
"Usually, the thing I pay attention to is the way I look and feel when I work before a game," Votto said. "During a game, most of it is instincts and trying to execute a plan. Before a game, you get a good idea of what your physical capacity is. And I feel great before the game. I'm hitting the ball well during batting practice. I'm capable of doing what I want to do."
Reds look to shake off tough loss to Brewers
MILWAUKEE -- Even the best teams in baseball are going to lose 60-70 games a season, and some will sting more than others. For a Reds team still trying to get traction, Saturday's 4-2 loss to the Brewers that came when the bullpen gave up all four runs late was among the tougher ones that Bryan Price has absorbed in his first year as a manager.
Like everyone, Price and the club had to move on quickly.
"We're all chasing that good feeling at the end of a win and it has that carry over. You sleep better. You wake up. You're in a better mood," Price said. "Every team does the same thing. [But], if you're going to survive this game and it's challenges, you're going to have to be able to get past the tough losses and move forward. I've really worked hard at that. It's not easy to do.
"Absolutely at times, there is some residual carryover after tough losses or losing streaks. It just stays on your mind. You're constantly trying to figure out as a manager what you're going to do to make a difference."