Josh Hamilton will return to Texas Rangers spring training next month, though this time without a spot on the 40-man roster and with no guarantees that he will be in the organization past April 1.
He will be in camp on a minor-league contract and will have to earn his way onto an Opening Day roster that is all but filled. There is no shortage of candidates for the few spots that remain open.
Hamilton, though, is willing and, most important, able.
The 2010 American League MVP agreed Tuesday morning to a minor-league deal with an invite to big-league spring training and was at Globe Life Park working toward the 25-man roster.
He was doing so with a first baseman’s glove in tow, knowing that he has to find a way to get at-bats and get on the field.
And there was this: Hamilton said he believes he has plenty to offer the Rangers.
“A whole lot,” he said. “Just thinking about, ultimately, what’s the biggest thing they want from me, and it’s probably at-bats. Get up there and do some damage at the plate.
“As far as fitting into the team, what’s the best opportunity and chance for getting those? Is it DH? Possibly. Is it first base? Maybe. Is it playing some in left? That’s an option, too,” he said. “It’s about finding the spots where you can get in the lineup and find those at-bats.”
Josh Hamilton won the 2010 American League MVP after batting .359 with 32 homers and 100 RBIs in only 133 games.
Hamilton said that he has flirted with first base for a few years and suggested it to general manager Jon Daniels. With his left knee healthy after a June reconstruction, Hamilton said that playing the outfield could lead to more injuries after three injury-wrecked seasons.
Hamilton didn’t play at all last season and admitted that retirement crossed his mind before he was diagnosed with a torn ACL and had it repaired. He was cleared by his doctors in Houston in early December and worked out for the Rangers just before Christmas.
Although a free agent, Hamilton said that he never considered signing with another team. He said he hasn’t considered what will happen if he’s not on the Rangers’ roster on April 1, when he can opt out of his deal.
It seems that he expects to be on the roster, and the Rangers aren’t putting anything past him.
I haven’t seen him in a long time as focused and motivated. When you’ve got a talented guy who’s got some motivation behind it, it’s a good risk for us to take.
Jon Daniels on Josh Hamilton
“His willingness to learn first base and work over there increased the number of spots he can play and increases his ability to fit our roster,” Daniels said. “I haven’t seen him in a long time as focused and motivated.
“When you’ve got a talented guy who’s got some motivation behind it, it’s a good risk for us to take.”
Daniels said that the Rangers continue to look at free-agent first basemen and didn’t rule out the possibility of signing one. A source said that the Rangers and Mike Napoli continue to discuss another reunion.
Hamilton said that he has worked at first base this off-season with Lance Berkman, who finished his career with the Rangers and also made the transition from outfield to first base.
Hamilton has also spoken with Rangers coach Steve Buechele about playing the infield, so that he can hit the ground running once spring workouts begin.
Hamilton, who would make the league minimum if he makes the Opening Day roster, said he could leg out an infield single today if necessary. However, he is gearing his body and knee to be ready for the first full-squad workout Feb. 21.
He has a lot of work to do this spring. He needs to win a job.
“I feel good right now. I feel healthy,” said Hamilton, who is still owed the final year of a five-year, $125 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels. “It’s a prove-yourself thing. There’s no guarantees, which I’ve always found I like.
“It just pushes you and drives you to be better and to get to where, personally, you want to be as a player. I’m excited about it.”