Hamilton making the most of second chance with Red Sox

June 13th, 2024

BOSTON -- When the Red Sox struck for a five-run rally in the bottom of the fifth inning to overturn an early four-run deficit on Wednesday night at Fenway Park, it was who put the first log on the fire with a hard single to lead off the momentum-changing frame.

In the sixth inning, when some insurance was required, it was Hamilton who unloaded for a laser beam, two-run homer into the visitor’s bullpen in right field to spark his team to an 8-6 victory over the Phillies, who entered the day with the best winning percentage in MLB.

The comeback from four runs down was Boston’s largest so far this season in a win.

Hamilton has made quite a comeback himself.

After his rough start to the season on both sides of the ball, 26-year-old Hamilton continues to get better on a daily basis. Hamilton’s confidence has soared and he is now allowing his athleticism to take over.

“He's understanding what he needs to do,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “And the more he plays the better. He is gaining more confidence. It's been fun to watch.”

Helped in large part by the rookie shortstop, the Red Sox (34-34) are managing to stay afloat despite the barrage of injuries they’ve dealt with for months.

“I love it,” said Red Sox outfielder Jarren Duran of Hamilton. “The guy works his butt off every day. That's just the behind the scenes stuff that nobody else sees. But we all see it and he's always been a really hard worker and it’s starting to show, and it's so awesome to see.”

When Boston started this season leaning into a youth movement, the focal position players were Jarren Duran, Triston Casas, Wilyer Abreu and Ceddanne Rafaela.

At that point, Hamilton was considered depth, and started the season at Triple-A. But once Trevor Story was lost for the season with a left shoulder fracture in the eighth game of the season, Hamilton was summoned from Worcester the next day.

At first, he struggled to contribute at the plate while making too many errors on routine plays.

By the end of April, Hamilton was on the bench more often than not. But Cora gave him a chance to start playing regularly again in mid-May, Hamilton didn’t let his second chance go by.

Unofficially, that second chance started on May 17, when Hamilton started the opener of a three-game series in St. Louis. That started a 76 at-bat stretch through Wednesday’s game that has seen Hamilton slash .355/.395/.592 with seven doubles, a triple, three homers and nine stolen bases. Defensively, he’s made two errors in his last 72 chances.

Confidence is a beautiful thing for a young player.

“A lot of it is mental, the way you go about things, the way you think about things,” Hamilton said. “I wasn’t playing that much, so I was trying to learn as much as possible and get in people’s heads, see what they were thinking.”

When Hamilton first went to the bench, it was due to not only his inconsistency on defense, but Boston’s shoddy infield defense overall. Rafaela, an elite defender in center, was moved to short to settle down the infield.

“We wanted Rafaela [to play short], and I think everyone here wanted Rafaela to play shortstop to slow it down, and we were able to do that and at the same time we were able to play [Hamilton] at second and he was able to get his feet under him and play better defense and the at-bats kept getting better and better,” said Cora.

“We can talk about player development and all that but if you're producing, you're gonna play. That's the way it is. It's a ‘do’ business. If you're doing the job, we'll find at-bats for you. And he's doing an amazing job and he's going to keep playing.”

Known mostly in the Minor Leagues for his blazing speed -- Hamilton set a franchise record with 70 stolen bases for Double-A Portland in ‘22 – he is now proving what he can do as a hitter and a fielder as well. But the biggest thing Hamilton has now is belief -- in himself.

“He's starting to realize he can be up here,” said Duran. “We all go through those bumps and bruises. The big leagues beat you up and spit you out. It’s great to see him come out of his shell and be the guy that we know he can be.”