The Texas Rangers’ crew at extended spring training could see Josh Hamilton depart Arizona on Saturday for an extended stint with Triple A Round Rock that would begin Sunday.
Hamilton will play left field against the Seattle Mariners’ extended team and be evaluated afterward. If all goes well, he would head to Nashville, where Round Rock will open a four-game series Friday.
The outfielder, acquired April 20 in a trade with the Los Angeles Angels, took live batting practice Thursday, including a few rounds against rehabbing left-hander Matt Harrison.
Hamilton, on the 15-day disabled list after shoulder surgery Feb. 4, also took regular batting practice and did conditioning work on his 11th day at the Surprise Recreation Campus.
The Rangers were encouraged by the work of Harrison, who is attempting to return after fusion surgery on his lower back last spring. He pitched three rounds of live BP at 15 pitches apiece, and his velocity topped out at 89 mph.
Harrison said that he will pitch in an extended spring game for the first time Wednesday, likely working two innings.
Hamilton won’t be the only Rangers player in Nashville. First baseman Mitch Moreland (elbow) said that he will begin a three-game rehab assignment there Saturday and likely will be activated from the DL on Wednesday.
The return of Moreland and, eventually, Hamilton will lead to difficult roster decisions concerning Jake Smolinski and the hot-hitting Carlos Peguero and Kyle Blanks.
The Rangers talked to Blanks about playing the outfield, even though he injured both Achilles’ tendons last season and has been limited to first base. Peguero, who hit two homers Wednesday, has been playing in a platoon with Smolinski in left field, where Hamilton will play.
Peguero can’t be optioned to the minors. Blanks can be, though the Rangers have to have his permission because he has five years of big-league service time. Smolinki has options remaining.
Center fielder Leonys Martin was hopeful that he could return to the Rangers’ lineup Friday after seeing significant improvement in his left wrist.
Martin hit off a tee and said his range of motion had returned after near round-the-clock treatment after hurting himself while diving for a ball Monday night.
Rookie Delino DeShields was in the starting lineup Thursday for a third straight game and has left a favorable impression on manager Jeff Banister. It’s apparent to Banister that the work DeShields has done while not playing is paying off.
“He’s worked his rear end off,” Banister said. “This kid has the drive to be an everyday major league player.”
DeShields showed solid instincts during a three-game sweep at Houston and put together some quality at-bats. He said he’s just trying to seize any chance he can get as a Rule 5 pick who has been stuck to the Rangers’ bench.
“I know my role on the team,” he said. “When an opportunity comes, I’ve got to be ready.”
Former first-round draft choice Kevin Matthews was released after being charged with driving while impaired early Wednesday.
“The Texas Rangers are very disappointed in the Wednesday morning incident involving Kevin Matthews, and we certainly do not condone this behavior,” the club said in a statement.
The oft-injured Matthews was struggling at Hickory (6.48 ERA, 11 walks in 8 1/3 innings) and likely was a candidate to be released later in the season.
The Rangers also promoted first baseman Ronald Guzman and right-hander Jefri Hernandez from Hickory to High-A High Desert. Guzman, who signed in 2011 for $3.45 million, batted .309 with three homers and 14 RBIs in 24 games.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760