Josh Hamilton faced his former team the Texas Rangers for the first time… (Gregory Bull / Associated…)
SURPRISE, Ariz. — Josh Hamilton got a taste of what life will be like on April 5, when the Angels are in Texas for the Rangers' home opener.
The Angels' new right fielder, who signed a five-year, $125-million deal in December without giving the Rangers a chance to counter, played his first game against his former club Thursday night.
Though it was an exhibition in a far-flung Phoenix suburb in a stadium one-fifth the size of the Ballpark in Arlington, it was a good primer for what Hamilton will face in Texas: a mixture of cheers and boos, fan comments ranging from encouraging to critical, some warm embraces with ex-teammates.
"It was weird, it was. But it was good to play this game," said Hamilton, who helped the Rangers reach the World Series twice in five years at Texas. "It will definitely help seeing the guys over in that dugout. We had some history."
Hamilton followed Albert Pujols' fourth-inning home run with a towering solo shot to center, part of a six-running inning that included homers by Howie Kendrick and Hank Conger.
Spring-training statistics don't count, but the Angels have hit four homers in an inning only once in franchise history, when Darin Erstad, Mo Vaughn, Tim Salmon and Garret Anderson went deep at Kansas City on May 28, 2000.
The fourth-inning rally erased most of a seven-run deficit. Conger put the Angels ahead with a two-run triple in the sixth, and Erick Aybar homered in the seventh, but the Rangers rallied for three runs in the ninth for a 10-9 victory.
"It was what I expected," Hamilton said of the game between American League West rivals, which featured 28 hits. "They came out to play. It's going to be fun this year."
On the rebound
Jered Weaver's right arm is alive and well. Cuffed around by Oakland in his last exhibition start, when he went through a spring "dead-arm" phase, the Angels ace threw 89 pitches in 6 1/3 innings of an intrasquad game Thursday and was pleased with the results.
"It's uplifting, a step in the right direction," said Weaver, who was rocked for eight runs and three home runs in two innings Saturday. "The first two innings felt like the same thing, but the last four innings I was where I needed to be as far as mechanics and timing. I knew where the pitches were going."
Weaver, who is scheduled to start the April 1 season opener at Cincinnati, gave up two earned runs and nine hits, struck out five and walked none. Of his 89 pitches, 58 were strikes.
"He started off just trying to find his rhythm, but the last three or four innings, you saw it coming," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "His last 20 pitches were terrific. He's happy. He's definitely back on track."
Though many U.S. players remain ambivalent toward the World Baseball Classic, declining to play because of injury risk and the timing of the event, Aybar, who helped the Dominican Republic win the tournament, raved about the WBC after returning to the Angels on Thursday.
"It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience," the shortstop said, through who has to be the world's highest-paid interpreter, Pujols. "If you get the opportunity to play in it, you should."
The Dominicans injected the WBC with enthusiasm and excitement, their exuberance evident during their sometimes over-the-top celebrations.
"Everybody knows we play baseball like that," said Aybar, who hit .333 (seven for 21) with six runs in six WBC games. "It's fun. We talk loud."