Embattled outfielder Josh Hamilton will return to the Major Leagues this afternoon when the Texas Rangers take on the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Hamilton, whose offseason brush with addiction set off a nasty divorce from the Los Angeles Angels, will play left field. Rangers’ manager Jeff Banister is unsure of Hamilton’s place in the lineup at this time.
“I have written a number of lineups down, but I haven’t decided where we are going to hit him,” Banister said.
One likely landing spot for Hamilton is in the five-hole behind Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre who have been hitting very well this season for the 21-23 Rangers who have won five straight. Hamilton hit well in 12 rehab games, but he has not played in a regular season Major League game since September 16th last year. The outfielder did play in last season’s ALDS against the Kansas City Royals, but went 0-for-13.
Hamilton’s Rangers teammates have been nothing but complimentary as they await his return to the lineup. The best year’s of Hamilton’s career came with the Rangers organization, and the franchise appears most ready to handle the special set of circumstances surrounding a player like Hamilton who battles issues with drug addiction.
Team leader Beltre said, “We’re happy to have him back in the lineup. We just want him to come in here and be one of the guys and enjoy the game. We know what he can do. We don’t expect him to carry the offense. If he is healthy, he’ll be a great help to us. There is no doubt he’ll be a big help to the middle of our lineup.”
While Hamilton may not return to his MVP caliber playing ways, if healthy, he may have a significant impact on a Rangers’ lineup that is already among the best in the American League. The Rangers are in the top-ten in the league in runs scored, and are coming off a three-game sweep of the New York Yankees. The Rangers scored 30 runs in those three games and have now won 13 of their past 20 games to close within two games of .500.
Hamilton’s first chance to begin extracting revenge on the Los Angeles Angels and owner Arte Moreno will come on Friday, July 3rd. Until then, the Angels will watch from afar as Hamilton begins playing for the Texas Rangers on their dime.