What unfolded Friday night in two media sessions before the Texas Rangers Dr Pepper Awards Dinner wasn’t at all surprising.
In fact, it’s likely what the Rangers had been anticipating.
Adrian Beltre is the model of fitness, at least for him. He is no longer limited by his surgically repaired left thumb, and the back woes that slowed him in the American League Division Series in October were gone by November.
Josh Hamilton, meanwhile, said that his surgically repaired left knee has been bothersome all off-season, until a cortisone shot Thursday allowed him to swing a bat Friday for the first time all off-season.
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Beltre is what he is: tough as nails and ready to go.
Hamilton also is what he is: constantly battling some ailing body part but eternally hopeful that he still has it in him to be a productive ballplayer.
“I’ve just been fighting back and forth with it, just pushing through the rehab,” said Hamilton, who had another MRI last week and saw Dr. Keith Meister on Thursday. “He put some cortisone in there, and I tell you what, man, to wake up this morning and put my shoe on without any pain was a wonderful thing. Everything else feels good.”
50 Games played last season by Josh Hamilton after a late-May debut, two stints on the disabled list and one knee operation
Hamilton said that he had an inflamed capsule in his knee, an ailment he theorized that he’s had for years before it finally made a stand this off-season. Nevertheless, he continued to rehab and work out after the surgery, his second cleanup after having one in September.
While he has been able to get in the gym, he hadn’t been capable of doing simple things such as squatting to hug his daughters. At least not until Meister found a remedy.
“My body has felt good. My arm feels great. I feel good right now,” said Hamilton, who turns 35 in May. “I’m very confident now. If we’d had this dinner yesterday, I would have been like, ‘Eh.’ But I haven’t had pain in 36 hours now. I’m excited.”
As such, Hamilton believes that he can make more of an impact with the Rangers than he did after they acquired him in April after two train-wreck seasons in Anaheim and put him on the field in late May.
They put him on the disabled list in early June.
It was doing really good. I might have just pushed it a little too hard, but I kept working through it and kept doing everything I was supposed to do.
Josh Hamilton on his off-season knee woes
But he played without a spring training, where players find their swings and do so over the course of six relatively leisurely weeks. Having a full spring slate this year is part of the reason for his budding confidence, as is a nice off-season he has spent with his parents for the first time since his divorce and quality time with his daughters.
Being in the right place mentally can be a challenge for Hamilton, too, and he appears to be in his happy place. But Hamilton wouldn’t put a number when asked how many games he could play.
He was asked if 140 was possible.
“It’d be nice,” said Hamilton, who played 139 games the past two seasons. “My thing this year is go to the park every day and do the little things to get my body ready every night.”
Rangers players still have visions of the 2010 and 2012 Hamilton in their minds when they watch him play. They can see the tools, all five of them, and having him available for most of their games would be a boon to the lineup.
“You guys have seen what he can do,” Beltre said at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center. “He’s one of the best hitters in the game when he’s of the right mind and he’s healthy.”
Adrian Beltre batted .344 with five home runs and 38 RBIs over the Rangers’ final 32 games last season and batted .325 over his final 78 games to finish at .287.
Beltre provided his standard answer when asked about his ailing body parts: “Good enough.” When he elaborated, he said that he is doing all baseball activities and that he still has four weeks to get even more prepared for spring training.
Beltre tore ligaments in his thumb May 31 but returned early from the disabled list in late June and struggled. By September, though, he was an RBI machine and finished with respectable numbers for a player who was playing with nine healthy fingers, eight after injuring his left index finger down the stretch.
His back seized up in Game 1 of the ALDS, but he returned for Game 4. All of his injuries are in the past.
“It’s nice to get to the point where it’s comfortable doing everything,” Beltre said.
That’s been good enough, as he often says, and it’s what the Rangers expect. They also have braced themselves for the ups and downs of Hamilton in 2016, so his latest knee woes are probably what they expect.
Welcome to 2016.
9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Globe Life Park.
Tickets: Adults, $10. Children 13-under: $5.
Autograph lineup: 10 a.m.: Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels; 11 a.m., Prince Fielder, Jeff Banister; 1 p.m., Ivan Rodriguez; 2 p.m., Elvis Andrus; 3 p.m., Josh Hamilton. Others throughout the day. A full schedule is available on the insert in the FanFest program.