Royals cut bait on Billy Hamilton, promote hot-hitting Brett Phillips

Billy Hamilton’s stint in Kansas City was always intended to be short-lived.

But not this short.

The Royals designated Hamilton for assignment on Friday, two months before the conclusion of the one-year contract he signed last December.

The reasoning: They created room for outfielder Brett Phillips, who joined the team on Friday ahead of a three-game interleague series with the Mets. Phillips batted fifth in the lineup.

“It didn’t work out. It just didn’t,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of Hamilton. “We were hoping a change of scenery would help. I mean he worked hard. Great teammate. It just didn’t translate to improvement for him as a player.”

Acquired in a trade that sent Mike Moustakas to the Brewers, Phillips has been tearing up Triple-A ball with Omaha lately, despite a rough start. He’s hitting .240 but has a .378 on-base percentage with 18 home runs and 13 triples for the season. He’s also successfully stolen 22 bases in 23 attempts. Since June 1, Phillips has 13 home runs with an OPS over 1.000 and an on-base percentage north of .400.

He credits a late-May adjustment — the way he grips the bat — for his resurgence.

“It was how I was holding my hand — I was losing the barrel in the zone,” he said. “I would swing through a lot of fastballs where I hadn’t in the past. I had it all last year before I was even traded here.”

In 93 games with the Royals, Hamilton batted just .211 without a home run. The team targeted Hamilton, a well-regarded defensive outfielder, as a prime fit for not only spacious Kauffman Stadium but also a team trying to return to its roots of speed. But his inability to get on base prevented that from becoming much of a factor. He stole 18 bases.

Phillips initially joined the Royals after last year’s trade, but he hit just .188 and struck out 50 times in 112 at-bats.

“Honestly, the best thing that could have happened to my career was starting out in the minors (this year),” he said. “Obviously there was a swing flaw. Everyone could see it. I could feel it. I’m thankful for the Royals to see it through.”

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