Reigning AL MVP Josh Hamilton has done everything right since joining the Texas Rangers in 2008. He's been a great teammate, he's played solid defense from his center field position, and he's obviously raked like crazy. One area where Hamilton could stand to improve though is his durability. After playing nearly a complete slate of games in '08 (156), Hamilton missed significant time the past two seasons due to injury. In '09 he played just 89 games; in '10, he played in 133 games. Not an alarmingly low number, but still not quite as many as you'd hope to see from your most dangerous bat.
To potentially help Hamilton stay healthy in '11, there has been discussion and speculation about the possibility of moving Hamilton out of the more physically demanding centerfield position to left field where fielding opportunities are fewer and where less real estate is needed to be covered. Hamilton is fine with that if it were to happen. He just wants to play and help his team win. In an interview with Ben & Skin on ESPN Radio late last week, Hamilton talked about that topic, as well as what he thinks of this year's Rangers squad that will try to build on its run to the World Series last fall. Here's what he had to say as we draw ever closer to the start of the new baseball season:
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."