Former American League MVP Josh Hamilton will make his second attempt at a comeback with the Texas Rangers.
The 35-year-old has signed a minor-league deal with Texas, the team announced Tuesday. He’ll be in major league camp when the club reports to Spring Training in mid-February.
Hamilton, who was a Ranger from 2008-2012, returned to Texas in 2015. He played just 50 games that year and opened the 2016 season on the disabled list.
He didn’t play in a single major league game in 2016. He went 0-for-2 in his lone minor league outing before going on the 60-day DL. He had surgery to repair cartilage in his knee on June 8, and was released in August.
In a press conference Tuesday, Hamilton admitted he “masked” the knee injury a year ago. This season, Hamilton says, is different, because the problem was identified and fixed.
He says his mentality is different, too. The seasoned veteran recalled 2007 Spring Training -- his first year making the Cincinnati Reds’ major league squad.
“Remembering how much work I put in to make that happen and how much fun it was. Every day mattered,” Hamilton said. “And I feel like that mentality is back.”
Hamilton has played every outfield position in his nine-year career, but has his sights set on first base in 2017. He chuckled as he said he hadn’t played first base since 1999.
But it’s a move that’s been in the works for a couple years, he said.
“I planted the seed,” he said. “Everything after that wasn’t up to me.”
The Rangers’ everyday first baseman in 2016, Mitch Moreland, departed for the Boston Red Sox this offseason.
Rangers fans probably remember Hamilton crashing into a fence or two during his prime. Cringing, most likely, with every full-speed collision into the padded outfield walls of major league stadiums everywhere.
“If I’m in the outfield, I’m going all out,” he said Tuesday. “I’ll be running into walls. It’s just the way I’m made and the way I play the game. If I’m not playing that way, I’m not going to enjoy it.”
Fans can expect a more mellow version of the five-time All-Star if his return comes to fruition. He said the team’s primary goal would be to get at-bats out of him, and he’s fine with that.
“[My goal is] to fit in and make the adjustment of being in that position and that role, no matter what it is, and being a good teammate,” he said, “and being somebody that’s going to go out there -- wherever they’re put -- to help their team win.”
The team says Hamilton has been on a workout program for a month. He’s working on baseball skills every other day.
When asked how much he has left in the tank, his response was simple: “A whole lot.”
“When you battle the doubts [while out of baseball], you remember what you’ve done, but then when you get the problem fixed...waking up days and really having that desire and saying ‘I can go and I can do some damage today.’ That mentality is still there.”
He'll make the MLB minimum salary while still being paid on the final year of a $125 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels, Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram reports.
Watch Hamilton's full media address here.
Gee gets a shot with hometown team
Cleburne native and UT-Arlington grad Dillon Gee has also signed a minor-league deal with Texas. He went 8-9 with a 4.68 ERA (65 ER/125.0 IP) over 33 games with the Kansas City Royals in 2016.
He’ll compete for a starting role with Texas.
Gee had surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome in October but says he will be 100 percent for spring training, according to the Star-Telegram.
Diekman to miss significant time in 2017.
Rangers southpaw reliever Jake Diekman will miss "at least half" of the 2017 season after having surgery to treat his ulcerative colitis. Read the full story here.