Billy Hamilton is honing his bunting weapon

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Billy Hamilton hit .368 in 22 plate appearances in September last season, but some in the know say that Hamilton will struggle to hit in the Majors. In his first season against Triple-A competition last season, Hamilton hit .256 with a .308 on-base percentage and a .343 slugging percentage.

Hamilton’s signature has always been his ability to swipe bases. In the Minors, Hamilton stole 395 bases in 479 opportunities (82.5%). But if he’s not hitting enough to get on base, he won’t be stealing all that much. That’s why Hamilton is working on improving his bunting. Via Mark Sheldon for MLB.com:

On Wednesday vs. Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, Hamilton push-bunted a ball past the first-base side of the mound. Ryu had no time to cover the bag after the first baseman fielded it, and in an act of futility, the second baseman scrambled for the bag. Hamilton was easily safe.

“If I do my job, I feel like I can get safe every time,” Hamilton said. “It’s just the point of getting it down and putting it in place. I have to realize I have to use my speed and don’t have to rush out of there. The main thing is getting the bunt down first, a perfect bunt.”

Hamilton is taking over for the Reds in center field and will bat in the lead-off spot. If he can get on base at a .310 clip and swipe second and even third with frequency, he will create plenty of RBI opportunities for those behind him in the lineup — including Joey Votto.

Justin Masterson is retired and doing missionary work

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Fancred’s Jon Heyman reports that pitcher Justin Masterson is retired from baseball and currently doing missionary work, according to his agent Randy Rowley.

Masterson, 33, hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2015, though he had been trying to find work going into the past season but never latched on with a team. He spent 2016 in the Pirates’ minor league system and 2017 at the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate.

Masterson spent parts of eight seasons in the majors with the Red Sox, Indians, and Cardinals. Across 258 appearances, 184 of which were starts, the right-hander compiled a 4.31 ERA with 1,004 strikeouts and 498 walks in 1,201 innings of work.