Hamilton to decline WBC invitation

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Scratch Josh Hamilton from the U.S. lineup in the World Baseball Classic in March. The Texas Rangers outfielder, who manager Davey Johnson wanted as his cleanup hitter, told SI.com he intends to decline a Team USA invitation in order to prepare for the regular season.

"If I had four or five years under my belt, I think I would do it," said Hamilton, who last season led the American League in RBIs and total bases in his second big league season. "I think I would be better served by going to spring training and by getting that work in, because I missed so much time."

Hamilton missed the 2003, 2004 and 2005 seasons, as well as half of the 2006 season, because of a drug addiction that led to his suspension from baseball. The next World Baseball Classic after the 2009 competition is scheduled for 2013. Johnson may still speak with Hamilton about joining the team next March, though the manager, when asked last week about Alex Rodriguez's decision to leave the U.S. team for the Dominican Republic squad, said, "I want a guy who wants to play for us."

"I was excited about it," Hamilton said about the possibility of playing for the U.S. in March. "I wanted to do it, especially with the chance to play with a guy like Derek Jeter. I think the next time it comes around I'd love to play."

Johnson intends to carry four outfielders. The top choices among outfielders for Team USA are Curtis Granderson, Grady Sizemore and B.J. Upton. Matt Holliday, who played in the inaugural WBC in 2006, and Ryan Braun are likely to receive consideration in the place of Hamilton.