DALLAS (AP) Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton freely bent his left leg back and forth without feeling any pain seven weeks after extensive surgery on his knee.
While still a long time from getting back on the field, Hamilton said Thursday that he anticipates being fully healthy and ready when the Rangers get to spring training in Arizona before next season.
''I'm just really excited that I feel like's it better, I feel like it's fixed,'' Hamilton said. ''Now the only thing is taking my time, strengthen it up and be ready for next year.''
During surgery June 8 in Houston, Hamilton's anterior cruciate ligament was reconstructed. Dr. Walt Lowe also repaired meniscus and lateral cartilage in the knee.
That was Hamilton's third surgery on the knee since September, along with cortisone shots and a stem cell and a platelet-rich plasma injection during spring training that may have actually led to more damage.
When Hamilton went for a recent checkup, he told the doctor he felt good and then asked how the knee looked. The doctor's response was ''unusually good,'' and when Hamilton asked what that meant, the doctor told him that at five weeks he was already at the point it took most patients 3 1/2 months to get to in recovery. But that also came with a reminder.
''He said the most important thing ... I know it feels good but at the same time you've still got some healing to do, so we really need to focus on that and going through the process of rehabilitation in the right matter,'' said Hamilton, who could start jogging again in about a week. ''I've got plenty of time to not have to speed it up.''
In his first appearance for the Rangers since his surgery, Hamilton took part in a ceremony at the Texas Rangers MLB Urban Academy in West Dallas where a field has been named in his honor after contributing to the project.
Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre was also there after making a contribution toward a major league-size turf field for an indoor facility that will be built on the 17-acre site. Beltre's No. 29 will be inscribed in the turf.
Hamilton was a five-time All-Star and the 2010 AL MVP in his five seasons with the Rangers from 2008-12. He left in free agency and signed a $125 million, five-year contract with the AL West rival Los Angeles Angels.
The Angels traded Hamilton back to Texas last year when he was coming back from shoulder surgery, and agreed to pay the Rangers for all of his $24 million salary this season and $22 million of the $24 million the outfielder is due in 2017, the last year of that contract. Hamilton played only 50 games last season, hitting .253 with eight homers and 25 RBIs.
When Hamilton is removed from the 60-day disabled list after this season, he knows it is possible that Texas could use his roster spot for another player. That would mean the 35-year-old outfielder would have to report to spring training with the Rangers on a non-roster deal.
''I feel confident that when I'm healthy, really healthy, I'm just as good as anybody in the game, and I still believe that,'' Hamilton said. ''I don't expect anything as far as like `Oh yeah, here you go, here's your spot,' or anything like that. I expect to go out there and play. If I have to win a spot, wherever that is, that's fine with me. I'll just be happy to be back out there and be pain free and playing again.''