CINCINNATI (AP) -Josh Hamilton's first setback with the Cincinnati Reds cost him a chance to play.
The outfielder was expected to make his first start in Thursday's game against the Chicago Cubs, but he came down with a 24-hour virus that kept him away from the ballpark for the day. Ryan Freel started in center field instead.
Hamilton was back at Great American Ball Park and feeling much better on Friday for the start of a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Freel started in center again.
``I have to ask Freel if he hexed me,'' Hamilton said.
Manager Jerry Narron plans to get Hamilton in the lineup soon. The Reds play a night game on Saturday against the Pirates followed by a day game on Sunday, so he's likely to start one of those.
It will mark another milestone for the 25-year-old outfielder, who didn't play for three years because of cocaine addiction. The Reds gave him a chance to make a comeback, and he made the team as the fourth outfielder in spring training.
He got a standing ovation when he pinch hit and flied out in the season opener on Monday, his first appearance in a major league game. He became ill Wednesday night, prompting him to go to a hospital to get fluids intravenously.
Hamilton recalled that he also got sick before his first professional game in 1999, after Tampa Bay made him the first overall pick in the draft. He was sidelined three days by that illness.
When he came back, he went 2-for-4 with a homer in his first rookie league game.
``So, maybe it's a good sign,'' Hamilton said.
Hamilton is one of the few players in the Reds' clubhouse who wouldn't mind playing a few innings in the snow. It was 35 degrees with occasional flurries during batting practice on Friday, the third straight day of near-freezing conditions.
Hamilton grew up in North Carolina and enjoys his rare encounters with wintery weather.
``I'm a cold-weather fan,'' he said. ``I especially like snowflakes. You don't see much snow in North Carolina.''

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