The Texas Rangers possess one of baseball’s most gifted performers and ‘feel good stories’ in Josh Hamilton, a former No. 1 overall pick of Tampa Bay, who has successfully overcome a well-publicized crippling drug addiction to take his place among the game’s elite. The 29-year-old captured his first career batting title and MVP award with last year’s incredible season, which he capped by also claiming top player honors in Texas’ ousting of the Yankees in the ALCS. The biggest knock on him nowadays is that he’s been injury-prone, a reason why Ron Washington would prefer to have his offensive centerpiece in the less physically-demanding left field position, instead of his natural position in center. That would in turn sew up an everyday job for speed demon Julio Borbon, whom the team believes has All-Star potential, but the highly-touted prospect’s defensive lapses this spring has created a cause for concern. However, Texas does have a reliable insurance policy in David Murphy, a solid all-around hitter who can fill in at any of the outfield spots. With a diverse lineup filled with power and speed, a stout bullpen and quality depth throughout the organization, the Rangers should once again be a team to be reckoned with in 2011, but they are going to need Hamilton to stay healthy if they are to make back-to-back appearances in the World Series.
Josh Hamilton joined ESPN Radio Dallas to talk about what is different about him this year compared to last year, what has impressed him the most about this year’s team, and whether he has tried to make a case for playing center field every day.
What is different about him this year compared to last year:
“For me this spring, the difference is not being able to come into the spring in the shape I wanted to come in and having to use spring training as a platform to get into shape for the season, the way they used to do it back in the day. So it has been a little different and trying to figure out my swing and where I can back to where I was at last year, and right now it is very, very close to where it was.”
What has impressed him the most about this year’s team:
“Since the first day everybody has known what they have needed to do. Nobody has looked lost or fell out of place, everybody has gelled together just like everybody did last year, so it has been, practices have been easier because we have been together for at least three or four years now…”
Whether he has tried to make a case for playing center field every day:
“No, because I am going to play where they want me to play. If they want me to play left, I am going to play left, whoever is in center, is in center whether it be Julio or somebody else, if they want me to play center I will be happy to do that. I just care about being in the lineup, period, right now, but I wanted to put what they think is the best lineup wherever they put them, and if that has me in center, has me in center, if that has me in left, it has me in left. Right now, it is just focusing on what they want me to do.”
If there is more of a chance at getting hurt playing left field or centerfield:
“Center, probably, because you have got more chances at more balls, because you have got to run to another gap, so there is that likelihood, there is walls around me in left field too. You know, so centerfield, there is definitely more chances to go after balls into gaps and get closer to walls more times than left.”