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Hamilton hard at work after impressive rookie season

Reds leadoff hitter improving strength, conditioning with Triple-A manager DeShields

CINCINNATI -- Following his rookie year in the Majors last season, Reds center fielder and leadoff hitter Billy Hamilton didn't play winter ball for the first time. But Hamilton hasn't spent all of his offseason time relaxing at home in Mississippi, either.

New Triple-A Louisville manager Delino DeShields and Hamilton had other ideas. DeShields, who managed Hamilton in the lower rungs of the Minors, lives in Atlanta during the offseason. So, Hamilton decided that was where he needed to be.

"He was like, 'We need to get some work in.' I went there. I got a little place there and I'm getting the work in," Hamilton said.

Second in National League Rookie of the Year Award voting, Hamilton batted .250 with six home runs and 48 RBIs in 152 games. He was also a NL Gold Glove Award finalist, often demonstrating spectacular defense.

Video: Must C Catch: Hamilton brings one back

There were shortcomings that Hamilton wanted to address. After posting a .292 on-base percentage, he'd like to reach base more. Though his 56 steals were second in the NL, he was also caught a Major League-leading 23 times. In the first half, Hamilton batted .285, including .327 in June, but his production plummeted and he batted .200 after the All-Star break.

"It was a long season, from running so much and that type of thing," Hamilton said. "I don't like to make excuses about anything. I didn't have a good second half, any way you put it. Whether I was tired or not tired, it was bad. I can admit to it. I can admit to my mistakes. I'm better prepared now."

So, Atlanta beckoned. Hamilton and DeShields have been working on some things at a facility run by former Reds player Mike Cameron.

"I'm getting more strength work in, more conditioning work in and it's been a blast so far," said Hamilton, who is a thin 160 pounds and six-feet tall. "I've been doing a lot of bunting and a lot of hitting, working on my jumps a lot more. [Cameron's] sons are out there and Delino's sons. We're all getting our work in.

"We like to run. We're all doing a bunch of jumps and conditioning-type work. It's working out really well."

Video: [email protected]: Hamilton swipes a pair of bases for 53 total

Reds manager Bryan Price believed more experience and understanding of the running game will improve Hamilton's stealing odds as well.

"It's just education," Price said. "The thing about being a young, confident player is feeling like there's not a situation where you can't be successful. Even though the percentages are always in his favor, there are going to be better opportunities in which to run, better pitcher-catcher combinations to run against, and that will be part of the learning curve."

Price would also like to see Hamilton take advantage of his speed by hitting more line drives and balls on the ground instead of lifting them into the air. That would include more bunting.

Video: [email protected]: Hamilton leads off the 5th with bunt single

"We're seeing the development of a young player," Price said.

Last season, Hamilton had 15 bunt hits and a .341 average on bunted balls into play, but he regretted not utilizing it more as a weapon.

"Last year, it was me who didn't do it as much as I should have," Hamilton said. "I feel I'm at the point where I've learned a lot the past season, and I'm going to do it a lot more. Delino is one of those guys who steers me the right way."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon.
Read More: Cincinnati Reds, Billy Hamilton