CINCINNATI -- Billy Hamilton is well-known for his lightning-quick speed on the basepaths and his ability to distract pitchers and catchers to force errors that lead to runs for the Reds. But something that is getting less attention is his defensive prowess in center field.
Entering Wednesday's game against the Giants, Hamilton was ranked second among center fielders in the National League with a 6.2 ultimate zone rating, an advanced metric that measures how many runs a player saves with his defense.
"His defense is already prolific," manager Bryan Price said Wednesday. "It's not the diving catches; it's all the ground he covers and his throwing arm and his throwing accuracy."
Hamilton displayed that arm strength and accuracy on a throw he made from deep center field on a fly ball that D-backs outfielder A.J. Pollock tagged up on in Saturday's game in Arizona, making it a close play. Hamilton missed a game to rest his elbow, which was sore after the throw, but the showcase was impressive nonetheless.
"I didn't know this, even coming into Spring Training, that his arm was as accurate and as strong as he's shown us this year," Price said.
Hamilton said that while he is more known for his speed on offense, he takes pride in being a good defensive center fielder.
"Defense is what I try to do my best at as of right now," he said. "I know my hitting is going to come so I feel confident at the plate, but I just had that transition to the outfield and I feel like if my offense is not going, I can go out and play defense and make a defensive play."
Hamilton came up through the Minors as a middle infielder, but in his first full season in the Majors, he has made a successful transition to the outfield.
"He's a very instinctive player, and for a guy that was a middle infielder, he's been doing this now for a couple years, and it's very special that he's been able to not just be able to play the position, but excel at it," Price said.
"That's what pitchers like about me, that I'm there and I don't like any balls to drop in the outfield," Hamilton said. "If it's inside the field of play, I feel like I've got to catch it."
Latos leaves rehab start early with leg issue
CINCINNATI -- During his third rehab-assignment start for Triple-A Louisville on Wednesday, Reds pitcher Mat Latos threw five innings and allowed two earned runs and six hits with one walk and three strikeouts while throwing 67 pitches at Lehigh Valley. There was a glitch, though, when Latos exited prematurely with an apparent leg injury.
It was expected that Latos would throw 90 to 100 pitches in the game as a requisite before being activated from the disabled list. Although the Bats did not reveal the injury details, Latos' wife, Dallas, tweeted that it was a calf cramp and that he was taken out as a precaution.
Calf cramped up. From what I understand they took him out as an extreme precaution. Nothing serious. (gonna go breathe now)- Dallas Latos (@DallasLatos) June 5, 2014
Reds manager Bryan Price was not aware of the injury details when he spoke to the media moments after a 3-2 loss to the Giants and expected to have an update Thursday.
Bruce reflects on 500th RBI, hitting slump
CINCINNATI -- When Reds right fielder Jay Bruce hit a double to right field that scored Todd Frazier in the first inning Tuesday for his 500th career RBI, it did not go unnoticed.
Bruce joined Johnny Bench, Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson and Adam Dunn has the only players in Reds history to reach 500 RBIs by age 27 or younger.
"It means that I've at least been semi doing my job since I've been here," Bruce said. "It's humbling at the same time. You see the guys that are on that list, some of them had 800 RBIs by this point. You know where you are on the totem pole. It's a checkpoint for me and hopefully it's No. 500 of a lot more."
Until his 2-for-4 game in Tuesday's 8-3 victory over the Giants, Bruce has had a humbling stretch at the plate. He was in a 4-for-30 slump in the previous eight games since he returned from the disabled list after having surgery to repair torn meniscus in his left knee May 5.
Hitting .206 entering Wednesday with three home runs and 16 RBIs, Bruce wasn't hot before the surgery, either. What made Tuesday promising was he was making hard contact. His best contact came on an out in the seventh when he lined sharply to center field.
"It's been a process coming back," Bruce said. "The biggest deal is to not try and catch up from what I missed in a game or a week or even a month. It's a full season. It's a long season. There is time left. I just have to continue to build a strong foundation that's going to allow me to be successful all year and not try to force things to happen. I need to be in a position to create them when the opportunities to arise."
Bruce did not go out on a rehab assignment in the Minors before his activation May 21, which might have affected his ability to come off the DL in any type of groove.
"Before I got activated, I told myself I would not use that as an excuse," Bruce said. "Not going on a rehab was a decision between me and the organization. I felt I was ready to come back and help the Major League team. Quite frankly, I haven't been since I've been back."
Mesoraco on eye-popping tear at plate
CINCINNATI -- Reds manager Bryan Price can't recall being around another catcher that's had as good of an offensive stretch as Devin Mesoraco is currently enjoying.
"I don't know if I've seen a better offensive run by a catcher," Price said Wednesday. "I know Miguel Montero, when I was in Arizona, was just starting to get more playing time when I left there, so he's had some pretty prodigious offensive moments in Arizona. But realistically, no, I don't think I've had a catcher that's swung the bat as well as Devin has."
Mesoraco entered Wednesday's game against the Giants hitting .347 with eight doubles, nine home runs and 27 RBIs. His nine homers have come in 101 at-bats, or roughly one-third of the number of at-bats he had in 2013 (323), a season in which he totaled nine homers. Mesoraco is slugging .693 and has a 1.084 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).
"I don't think it's a completely different feeling [from other stretches in my career]," said Mesoraco, who homered off Tim Lincecum in Tuesday's 8-3 win. "I still have pitches that I miss and I still get upset when I don't produce in certain situations, but I feel like if I go up there, do what I'm able to do, the results are going to show, and I think you just roll with it as long as you can."
Mesoraco had a two-homer, five-RBI game against the D-backs in Arizona last Friday, including a grand slam. But despite his sensational performance at the plate so far this season, he remains grounded, not getting too high or too low with each plate appearance, but instead focusing on helping his team in any way he can.
"I think when it comes down to it, the only thing I'm really focused on is helping the team win," Mesoraco said. "Offensively or defensively, those are both ways that I can really affect the game, and I'll just go out there and continue to do what I've been doing, and hopefully if those things happen, great, and if not, no big deal."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.