Billy Hamilton says rehab from shoulder surgery is on track

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Reds speedster Billy Hamilton arrived in the majors with plenty of hype and finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year balloting in 2014 after batting .250/.292/.355 with 56 steals while playing excellent defense in center field. The hope was that he would take a step forward at the plate last season, but he actually went in the other direction, batting just .226/.274/.289 over 114 games before undergoing surgery in September to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

While kicking off the Reds Caravan event this morning, Hamilton gave Mark Sheldon of MLB.com an update on his shoulder. He admitted that he’s not yet 100 percent, but all is going according to plan with his rehab and he expects to be ready for the start of spring training.

“I’m throwing, hitting, lifting weights and doing all my therapy,” Hamilton said. “I’m not limited or anything. My shoulder feels good. I’m looking forward to getting out to Arizona and doing more stuff. I haven’t been able to do much stuff out on the field because of the weather.

“It’s a process you don’t want to rush. I could go out there and long toss, but there’s no point in doing it right now. They want to make sure everything is healed.”

Hamilton’s speed can change a game, but the Reds haven’t enjoyed the benefits as often as hoped. The 25-year-old now owns a lowly .287 on-base percentage through his first 1,087 plate appearances in the majors. Only seven players (min. 1,000 plate appearances) have a lower on-base percentage dating back to 2013. There’s serious work to do here. Fortunately, the Reds have shifted into rebuild-mode, so they can afford to let him attempt to figure things out at the plate, especially with the value he provides on defense.

Pujols hits 701st career home run, connects for Cardinals

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ST. LOUIS — Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 701st home run, connecting Friday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Pujols launched a slider from former teammate Johan Oviedo over the Big Mac Land sign in left field at Busch Stadium. The solo drive in the fourth inning made it 1-all.

Pujols faced Oviedo for the first time and made the 24-year-old righty the 456th different pitcher he’s homered against.

The St. Louis star hadn’t homered in a week since hitting No. 699 and 700 at Dodger Stadium last Friday. Pujols had gone 10 at-bats without a home run after two starts and one pinch-hit appearance.

The Busch Stadium crowd gave the 42-year-old Pujols a long standing ovation before he came out of the Cardinals dugout to tip his cap for a curtain call.

Pujols hit his 22nd home run this season for the NL Central champion Cardinals.

Pujols is fourth on the career home run list behind Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714).