Texas Rangers

Rangers give Hamilton rest, then he delivers game winner

Josh Hamilton started six straight games to open his 2015 season before getting a day off Sunday.
Josh Hamilton started six straight games to open his 2015 season before getting a day off Sunday. Star-Telegram

Josh Hamilton had played six straight games, stuffed himself into an airplane seat for a round trip to Cleveland, and twice gone above the norm to meet the media’s demands.

All of that came after bouncing around the minor leagues for a month and essentially not having a spring training.

Hamilton could have used a day off, and he got one Sunday, except for being the hero in the ninth inning with a pinch-hit two-run double that beat the Boston Red Sox 5-4.

The outfielder was out of the starting lineup for the finale of the Texas Rangers’ four-game series against the Red Sox. Hamilton finished his first week of the 2015 season batting .273 (6 for 22) with two homers, five RBIs, four walks and some noticeable fatigue.

“The plan really was to go along as he felt and what he could do in each game,” manager Jeff Banister said. “You could tell it had been six days.”

Hamilton might have played Sunday had it not been for the Rangers’ scheduled off day Monday. Banister couldn’t pass on the chance to get Hamilton two days off while missing only one game, and that was the key element in his decision to sit the 2010 American League MVP.

Hamilton became the latest regular to get a day off, joining shortstop Elvis Andrus, first baseman Mitch Moreland and right fielder Shin-Soo Choo. A day off is also coming for designated hitter Prince Fielder, who has played in all 51 Rangers games.

Banister had been planning to find a day for Adrian Beltre, but he suffered a thumb injury Sunday that will keep him out at least two weeks.

Fielder has been mostly at DH, which helps get him off his feet, but he is also the AL leader in batting average and hits while ranking third in total bases.

“He’s been on the bases a ton, and he runs hard when he’s on the bases,” Banister said. “He still works hard on his defense in pregame. You’re not out playing defense, but the energy that this guy puts into his day, I can’t believe that he’s more tired playing defense than DH-ing.”

Harrison’s schedule

Left-hander Matt Harrison will move another step closer to rejoining the Rangers’ rotation when he makes a rehab start for Triple A Round Rock on Wednesday, the one-year anniversary of his career-threatening back surgery.

Harrison said that he will pitch at Reno on an 85-pitch limit and would pitch again June 8 at Round Rock. He hasn’t been told the next steps after that. He made five starts at extended spring training, with the last coming Thursday.

He threw a bullpen session Sunday at Globe Life Park.

“I feel great,” Harrison said. “A big difference the last two games was I felt like I maintained and picked up the velocity after the first inning.”

Harrison topped out at 90 mph at Arizona in his third start, though his velocity dipped the rest of that game. He sat at 86-89 mph throughout the final two, and he leaned on his off-speed pitches to keep the fastball-happy young hitters at extended spring training guessing.

He expects to see the velocity climb once he is playing in more meaningful games against better competition. He pitched in the low- to mid-90s when healthy earlier in his career.

“I’ve never taken eight months off from throwing,” Harrison said. “I think when I get under some lights, that’s going to help.”

Briefly

▪ Lefty Derek Holland (shoulder) said that he will throw up to 90 feet this week before having an MRI exam Friday. If all goes well, he could begin ramping up his throwing program next week.

▪ Right-hander Nick Tepesch (elbow) will continue his rehab at extended spring training, beginning Monday.

▪ First baseman Kyle Blanks (pilonidal cyst) has resumed taking batting practice and throwing, but won’t be able to begin a rehab assignment until the pain subsides.

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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