Commentary

Hamilton positive, says he's 'very close'

Reigning AL MVP yet to homer in spring, but neither he nor Rangers are concerned

Updated: March 11, 2011, 12:46 AM ET
By Richard Durrett | ESPNDallas.com

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Josh Hamilton's spring training numbers aren't very impressive at this point. He knows it, and so does Texas Rangers hitting coach Thad Bosley. Neither is worried about it.

Hamilton was 1-for-3 on Thursday, raising his average to .240 this spring. He has yet to hit a home run in a Cactus League game (athough he's still mashing his fair share in batting practice on the back fields) and has just two extra-base hits. He got his first RBI of the spring Thursday on a ground ball through the hole between first and second.

"Josh is going to be fine," Bosley said. "It's spring training. I wouldn't put any stock in numbers. I don't think he's struggling. I think he's going through what all major league hitters, all major league players go through when they're preparing for the season."

Hamilton is utilizing this spring to fine-tune his mechanics and make sure his body is ready for the season. He's not making any major changes to the swing that helped him earn American League MVP honors in 2010.

The slugger isn't looking at the numbers. His focus is on how he feels. And he's encouraged that he's found some of his timing recently.

"I'm very close," Hamilton said before Thursday's game. "I'm having good at-bats and seeing pitches better. There are still some at-bats when I get excited and jump and go get the ball. If you do that, it actually speeds the ball up and makes your swing longer, so I don't want to be doing that."

Hamilton said that the past few games, he's been able to work counts better, but he still recognize pitches he needs to jump on early in the count. On Thursday, he took a swing at the first pitch in the first and didn't get the barrel on the ball, flying out to center. But it was the kind of pitch he can hit when his timing is on. His second at-bat, he also hit a fly ball to center, but it came after he worked the count to 3-2.

Josh Hamilton
William Perlman/The Star-Ledger/US PresswireJosh Hamilton hasn't had much success in spring games, but the slugger says his rhythm and timing are improving.

"I am having some at-bats where I work the count," Hamilton said. "I'm still looking for my pitch, and when it's there, I'll swing at it even if that's early."

Hamilton said there will come a time in camp when things click and he gets to where he's having consistently solid plate appearances.

"When it clicks, you have to mentally figure out how to physically stay in that spot," Hamilton said.

Last spring, Hamilton missed some action because of minor injuries, including a sore neck from falling in an outfield drill. He hasn't had any of those issues so far this spring. But he still is getting his body adjusted to game conditions.

"I was sick some this offseason, and the weather wasn't great in Dallas," Hamilton said. "So I didn't get into a rhythm with what I was doing. I'm starting to do that now."

Bosley said he can tell the short offseason affected Hamilton, but he's not concerned. In fact, he also agreed that Hamilton is very close to finding that rhythm and timing he wants.

"I can see that from the early work, the way he feels in his early work," Bosley said. "He's a feel guy. I can see in his batting practice when we work on his load and driving the ball the other way. He's doing a better job of staying behind the baseball. In the ballgames, pitchers are ahead of hitters right now. It's going to take some time before you get your rhythm and start squaring the ball up where you want to."

Manager Ron Washington said Hamilton's timing is just a little off.

"He's still trying to find himself," Washington said. "He'll get there. He's still got plenty of time to find it."

Bosley said Hamilton is right where the coach expected and is taking the steps needed to be prepared for Opening Day in three weeks.

"I think when we start in April, he'll be ready," Bosley said. "I even believe that before we finish spring training that he'll start getting through balls and driving balls where he's supposed to. I'm not worried about Josh. No one should be."

Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com.

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