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Hamilton on joining Braves: 'It's like Christmas again'

PAUL NEWBERRY (AP Sports Writer)
Boston Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers, left, tags out Kansas City Royals' Billy Hamilton, right, who tried to advance to third on a flyout during the fourth inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

ATLANTA (AP) -- Billy Hamilton feels like Christmas came early.

After being let go by one of baseball's worst teams, Hamilton joined the first-place Atlanta Braves on Tuesday to help with their push for the playoffs.

''It's a great feeling,'' Hamilton said in the clubhouse at SunTrust Park before the opener of a three-game series against the Miami Marlins. ''I had chills going down my body when they called me the other morning and told me I had been claimed by the Braves.''

Hamilton was designated for assignment by the Kansas City Royals on Friday after a dismal season for both him and the rebuilding team. He was hitting .211 with no homers and 12 RBIs.

The Braves claimed Hamilton off waivers to bolster their injury-plagued roster, which is missing outfielders Nick Markakis, Ender Inciarte and Austin Riley, along with shortstop Dansby Swanson. All are on the 10-day injured list, and only Riley seems close to getting back on the field.

For now, Hamilton will play a role off the bench, serving as a late-inning defensive replacement and pinch-runner. He had 18 stolen bases for the Royals.

Hamilton will take whatever playing time he can get.

''It's like Christmas again,'' he said with a smile. ''It's amazing to come here and be part of this winning organization.''

Hamilton spent six seasons in Cincinnati, where he was never much of a hitter but earned significant playing time with his speed and defensive prowess. He was a five-time finalist for the Gold Glove and had four straight seasons with more than 50 stolen bases.

''You're talking about a guy with speed and a defender who can switch-hit,'' Braves manager Brian Snitker said. ''I think he'll be a good addition, especially late in the game when you start moving guys around to try and defend.''

The Braves made it clear that Hamilton won't jump into a starting role. He is simply someone who can fill in the gaps while the team tries to work around the rash of injuries in its bid for a second straight NL East title.

''We talked to Billy about it when we signed him,'' Snitker said. ''He's excited to be in a pennant race. He'll do whatever he can to help.''

The 28-year-old Hamilton is eager to jump-start his career after flopping in Kansas City. He is making $4.25 million this year and has a $7.5 million mutual option for next season that includes a $1 million buyout.

''My hitting is where I want to get better, but that takes a little time. I'll have the offseason for that.'' he said. ''I want to do whatever I can to help this team win. Whatever job they need me to do, I'll do it. If I have to sit out a few games and then play defense, I'll do it.''

Hamilton said his immediate goal is to show enough value that he is included on the Braves' postseason roster.

''It's not a given that I will be on the playoff roster,'' he said. ''My job is to come here and do what I can to be on that playoff roster.''

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