Say what you want about Freel, but there's no doubting he is a team player and wants to win.
Notes: Freel willing to give up job
Selfless veteran says rookie Hamilton needs to stay in lineup
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- You won't hear something like this every day from a ballplayer.
The ink had barely dried on Ryan Freel's new, two-year, $7 million contract extension on Monday, and he was already discussing his willingness to give up his everyday spot in center field to Josh Hamilton.
"I think this kid is something special," Freel said. "With the addition of him on this team, I might be working a little more in the infield, which I don't have a problem with. I just know that kid helps us win. He's an unbelievable player."
Hamilton, the former overall No. 1 draft pick in 1999 by Tampa Bay with a well-chronicled off-the-field past, has been a national sensation since making the Reds out of Spring Training as a Rule 5 Draft selection.
With Hamilton as the fourth outfielder behind Freel, Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn, manager Jerry Narron has been challenged to find the rookie starts and at-bats. Narron has had Freel, a utility player that can play five positions, taking ground balls at second and third base the past few days.
"I know you have to have a guy like that in the lineup," Freel said of Hamilton. "He's one of the better athletes I've seen. Sky's the limit for him. I will put myself aside any day, any time in order for us to win a championship. Regardless of where he's been and what's he done or only playing this much, he's the type of guy that can step in and play every day. And he's the type of guy that will put up good numbers if you stick with him. I don't have any problem with that ... especially now."
Hamilton was not in Monday's lineup vs. the Brewers, but he started four of the previous five games. And as a pinch-hitter Monday, the 25-year-old Hamilton hit his third homer of the season, a two-run shot in the ninth inning in the 10-6 loss. He has plenty of respect for Freel and his selflessness.
"That speaks for itself," Hamilton said. "Me and Ryan have a good relationship. We get along, not just in baseball but off-the-field things. We have a lot of stuff in common. I'm the same way he is. If he plays, I'm rooting for him. If I play, he's rooting for me."
Reds manager Jerry Narron planned to start Hamilton somewhere in the lineup on Tuesday.
"We have to find a way to get him out there as much as possible," Narron said.
Dunn's back: Dunn was back in the starting lineup Monday after he was a late scratch Sunday because of back spasms. Before flying home on the charter flight from Chicago, the left fielder had to take muscle relaxers.
Dunn said his back locked up on him a second time before going to bed Sunday night, but he was in better shape a day later.
"It's not even close," Dunn said. "I can stand up. It's still real sore like someone had taken knives out of me."
In Monday's game, Dunn went 3-for-5 with a double and a run scored.
Gonzalez not back: Still away tending to his hospitalized 7-month-old son, Johan, in Miami, shortstop Alex Gonzalez remained on the bereavement list and did not play Monday. Juan Castro started at shortstop, as he has since Friday.
Gonzalez met with his son's doctors on Monday afternoon, and it is possible he'd be back in time for Tuesday's game.
Harmon honored: One day after a Major League Baseball-wide celebration to honor the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball's color barrier, the Reds honored Robinson and their own history-maker, Chuck Harmon, on Monday.
Harmon was the Reds' first African-American player 53 years ago. He made his debut on April 17, 1954, against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Harmon, 82, threw a ceremonial first pitch to Griffey before Monday's game. Griffey wore Robinson's No. 42 in Sunday's game at Chicago.
In memory: The Reds held a pregame moment of silence in reflection of Monday morning's tragedy at Virginia Tech, where 32 students were shot and killed by a gunman.
Coming up: Matt Belisle (2-0, 1.50 ERA) will start for the Reds on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. ET in the second and final game of their series with the Brewers. Right-hander Dave Bush (1-1, 5.25) is Milwaukee's scheduled starter.