Billy Hamilton’s Rickey Henderson-Like Speed Catches Red Sox’s Attention

Billy HamiltonBOSTON — Cincinnati Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton is nursing a swollen left middle finger, so it’s possible the Red Sox might not see much of him in the teams’ quick, two-game series at Fenway Park. But that doesn’t mean the Sox haven’t game planned for the young speedster.

Red Sox manager John Farrell had some high praise for Hamilton before Tuesday’s game against the Reds. The Boston skipper even referenced a Hall of Famer in connection with the 23-year-old’s stolen base ability.

“This is I think a type of player that (only) comes along every so often,” Farrell said. “You probably have to think back to a guy like Rickey Henderson (for someone) who has the ability to steal the number of bases that he has. I know that’s a quick reference to a Hall of Fame player, but when you see a guy steal 140 bases in the minor leagues, that’s eye-popping. The ability to impact a game with his legs is clear.

“He’s an interesting player, no question.”

Hamilton, who entered Tuesday’s game with 11 stolen bases, gained national recognition before ever appearing in a major league game. The former second-round pick swiped 155 bases in 132 games split between High-A Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola in 2012, further validating his status as one of Major League Baseball’s most intriguing prospects.

“You begin to categorize players,” Farrell said of how the Red Sox intend to defend the switch-hitting outfielder, if necessary. “And when you put a guy into a category that’s of this capability, your attention is maybe, OK, put him on the side of the plate where he’s less likely to get on-base, for one. And then two, you take your best shot at disrupting timing.

“It’s not a matter of additional (pick-offs). It’s just disrupting his timing as a base stealer. He has been thrown out — it’s not like it’s a guarantee — but he’s a hell of a base stealer.”

Hamilton hasn’t swung the bat well this season, so clearly there’s still some development that needs to take place for the rookie to take the next step. He’s an instant threat because of his blazing speed, though, and the Red Sox intend to do everything in their power to minimize his impact if he finds his way onto the bases in this week’s interleague series.

“I think that’s where everyone’s internal clock kicks in,” Farrell said. “Anticipating the play kicks in, and that’s the biggest thing when dealing with a player like this.”

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