All the principals in the decision on when Josh Hamilton will make his formal return to the Texas Rangers agree that the one-time American League MVP is closer to major-league ready than he was yesterday and the day before that.
Whether that means he will return Friday in the atmosphere of New York’s Bronx Zoo or more docile Cleveland on May 25 has not been decided, according to general manager Jon Daniels.
In perhaps one of his last games of a minor league rehabilitation assignment on Sunday, Hamilton went 1 for 4 with a double as the designated hitter while also being bewitched by off-speed pitches in a strikeout in the eighth inning of a game, incidentally, that the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders lost.
“My preference is to get back as soon as possible,” Hamilton said Sunday. “At the same time … I want to make it easy for them [by reaching a level of comfort] and say ‘OK, let’s go.’
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“I’m not going to rush. I want to feel good for a few days in a row. The last thing you want to do is go up there and be unprepared. But I’m in a good spot.”
Though he said no decision had been made regarding the date of Hamilton’s return, Daniels said Sunday that he would likely err on the side of caution and give Hamilton additional time.
Hamilton is set to take Monday off before playing again Tuesday and Wednesday in Frisco.
Daniels said that it has been clear to him that Hamilton has made progress, particularly after going 4 for 5 on Saturday, his best game of the eight. Yet, Daniels said he wouldn’t assume anything based on that performance.
As far as equivalent timelines, the game was like on “March 10th evaluating a spring training game.”
The report on Hamilton was good, Daniels said. “Not so much the box score, but felt like his swings are better, his takes are better, his at-bats were better. He’s made progress.
“Again, I don’t put a whole lot into it. You don’t want to overdo it.”
Hamilton is 9 for 28 with three RBIs in eight games with Triple-A Round Rock and Frisco. The numbers are inconsequential. The former and current Rangers slugger is here to get his body — rusty from time off and off-season shoulder surgery — and timing tuned for big-league competition.
“I don’t know about going out there and playing nine innings in center field every day,” Hamilton said Sunday. “But DH a day, play the field and work my way up, yeah. If I were to go [today], it’d probably look different than if I went in three or four more days.”
Hamilton motored into second on his third-inning double and took a wide turn as Corpus Christi’s center fielder finally retrieved the baseball.
“I wasn’t feeling the whole getting after a triple yet, either,” said Hamilton, who turns 34 on Thursday. “When it counts up there, there’s no question you’re going no matter what. Down here, why take a chance?”
Hamilton got a taste of what his reception will be like when he returns to Arlington.
One fan held a sign that said, “We already forgive you, Josh.”
“It’s been a good reception,” Hamilton said. “It’s been good to hear a little twang in people’s voices.”
With history as a guide, New York baseball fans would certainly not be so welcoming.
Daniels said the circus that would surround a return coinciding with the trip to New York would not factor into the decision. Hamilton said that wouldn’t bother him, either.
“That’s where we are,” Daniels said. “If I had to say right now, I would say it’d probably be Cleveland more likely, but we haven’t made that call yet.”
Staff writer Jeff Wilson contributed to this report.