Hamilton homecoming: 2010 AL MVP back in Texas on home team
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Josh Hamilton stepped into the batter's box in Texas to a loud ovation. That got even louder when he lined the first pitch he saw into the right-field corner for a double.
A month and a day after being re-acquired by the Rangers, Hamilton played his first home game in Texas since the 2012 AL wild-card game, one in which the soon-to-depart slugger was booed lustily - like he would be the next two seasons when returning with the Los Angeles Angels.
Hamilton finished 2 for 4, including an RBI single in the ninth - on another sharply hit ball to right - that accounted for the only Rangers run in a 5-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox.
Even though he was fighting a cold, Hamilton said before the game that he was ''very excited'' to be back in Texas. He batted fifth and played left field, like he did in all three games after initially re-joining the Rangers on Monday for a three-game series in Cleveland.
''Anytime I see the stadium, it's good memories,'' Hamilton said before Thursday night's series opener against Boston, describing how he felt when he turned onto Ballpark Way earlier in the day. ''Just the memories of the good times ... it's going to be tried by me very hard as a player, as a teammate and as somebody who works in the organization to create some more good memories.''
This was his home from 2008-12, a stretch of five seasons when he was the 2010 AL MVP, an All-Star each year and helped the Rangers get to their only two World Series.
In his last home game for Texas, Hamilton twice struck out on three pitches and grounded into a double play in the wild-card loss to Baltimore. That came after 18 strikeouts in the last 10 regular-season games, and a dropped routine popup in the finale that allowed Oakland to go ahead to stay and clinch the division title that day.
Hamilton left in free agency to the Angels two months later, but struggled with injuries and performance during his two seasons on the West Coast.
Asked if he felt he could still put up the kind of numbers he did in the past for the Rangers, Hamilton said the only way to find out was to go out and play. But, yes, he has confidence that he can.
''When you don't get nervous when you go out there and play, whether first at-bat or you're in the field for the first time again, if you're not nervous, then you don't need to do it,'' he said. ''I still have all those things. Yeah, I think I can do what I've done in the past.''
Hamilton hit .305 with 152 homers and 506 RBIs his previous five seasons as a Ranger. He led the AL with 130 RBIs in his 2008 Texas debut, led the majors with .359 average in 2010 and had a career-high 43 homers in 2012.
The Angels traded Hamilton back to Texas on April 27. After an offseason when he had shoulder surgery and a self-reported relapse with cocaine and alcohol, the slugger went to Arizona for extended spring training before 12 games split between Triple-A Round Rock and Double-A Frisco.
''Over this last month, it's just been fun in general,'' Hamilton said. ''It's been fun for me to see all aspects of it. You know you appreciate it.
''Anytime you go through those levels like that, you can appreciate it even more. ... It's gone well. Physically feel good, mentally fell even better.''
Hamilton was hitless in his first 10 at-bats before a hit in his final at-bat at Cleveland on Wednesday, a single when he was thrown out trying for a double. He crashed face-first into the wall in left while catching a line drive, staying in the game after remaining on the ground briefly.
Hamilton said he was having more fun each game, which to him is a positive sign that he is getting closer to where he wants to be.
''The comfort, the smile on his face, the energy, all those are important, they're real, they're substantial, and then how he's gone about it, how he's played,'' first-year Rangers manager Jeff Banister said.
''His expectations, I'm glad that he feels that, and my encouragement would be to stay intentional with that.''