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BASEBALL

Refusing to be walled in

Josh Hamilton returns to the Texas Rangers after an injury caused by crashing into an outfield fence for the second time this season, but says he won't change aggressive style.

July 07, 2009|Bill Brink

Josh Hamilton smiled and pointed his index and middle fingers at his eyes, the universal sign for "watch closely."

"Watch batting practice. Watch the game tonight," he said when asked about his readiness to play the outfield after collisions with the wall put him on the disabled list twice this season. "Actions speak louder than words."

The Texas Rangers activated Hamilton from the DL for Monday's game against the Angels, his first since May 31. He played center field and was two for four, including a double.

Hamilton went on the 15-day DL on June 2 and had surgery June 9 to repair a torn muscle in his abdomen, an injury he suffered when he ran into the outfield wall. He and the wall had a previous encounter this season, and the wall came out on top then as well, putting Hamilton on the DL from April 27 to May 11 because of a strained muscle in his rib cage.

No chance of him changing his approach in the field, though.

"We don't focus on walls," Rangers Manager Ron Washington said. "That's his game, that's the way he plays."

Before going on the DL the second time, Hamilton was hitting .240 with six home runs and 24 runs batted in. Last season, he hit .304 with 32 home runs and an American League-leading 130 RBIs.

To prepare for Monday night's return, Hamilton played in six games in the minor leagues, five with triple-A Oklahoma City and one with double-A Frisco. He was four for 27 overall, but Sunday was two for four with a double and a triple.

"I got all the kinks worked out as far as mechanically and stuff like that," he said.

Washington said he was happy to have Hamilton back, but would be careful about how he used him to keep him fresh. He will rotate Hamilton around the outfield and play him as the designated hitter at times.

"It's just that he's been out for quite a while and I want him in that lineup for the rest of the way, and if I have to move him to left field and move him to right field to give his legs a break and DH him, I'm going to do it," Washington said.

Hamilton said he would rather play the field because it allows him to stay loose, but Washington said the DL stint may give Hamilton fresh legs at a time when other players start slowing down before the All-Star break.

But the break might not give Hamilton too much rest: He was voted as a starter for the second consecutive year. At last year's Home Run Derby in Yankee Stadium, Hamilton put on a show, hitting 28 home runs in the first round and 13 in a row at one point before eventually losing to Minnesota's Justin Morneau.

Hamilton won't participate in the derby this season because of his injuries, but said he was excited about being selected to start in the game.

"It's a pretty cool feeling," he said. "I'm definitely going to play."

--

william.brink@latimes.com

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