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MVP Josh Hamilton would rather play CF

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- If Josh Hamilton had his druthers, he'd play center field and only center field for the Texas Rangers.

But that's not going to happen, because the Rangers want the American League MVP to play left field, where he's less susceptible to crashing into walls and will have fewer chances to dive for balls in the gap.

Which is exactly why Hamilton would rather play center.

"You have more chances to do that," Hamilton said Friday. "I love to play defense more than anything. I love taking away from other people -- not in a bad-guy sense, just having fun. Center field gives you more opportunities to do that. But, like I said, I'm going to play where they put me and I don't think about it too much."

Hamilton has injured his ribs each of the last two seasons crashing into the wall while chasing down fly balls. Last season, he missed almost all of September with cracked ribs. Fortunately for the Rangers, they had a comfortable lead in the American League West and got by without him. He played in just 89 games in 2009.

Still, Hamilton doesn't seem to buy the notion that his odds of staying healthy rise substantially by playing in left instead of center.

"A quarter percent?" Hamilton asked. "I'm going to play where I'm told, but I feel comfortable in center field. I mean I do. The outfield's the outfield. I don't have any control where they put me in the lineup."

Rangers manager Ron Washington said he will stick to the plan when it comes to his reigning AL MVP.

"Keep him in left as much as possible and as I've said he will get playing time in center field," Washington said. "Whenever that is we'll see when that happens."

The Rangers are hoping Julio Borbon will be their long-term answer in center. But last season, as David Murphy pushed Borbon for time, Hamilton would move to center with Murphy in left.

During the postseason, with Murphy and right fielder Jeff Francoeur (now with Kansas City) platooning, Hamilton played exclusively in center, where he routinely made spectacular plays.

Borbon has committed two errors in center field in the first two games of the spring. He's misplayed a fly ball and allowed a ball to skip under his glove. He also made a diving stab, and after two more hits in Friday's game against the Oakland A's, Borbon is batting .538.

"Julio's got all the talent in the world," Hamilton said. "He has the ability to be a great player in the big leagues. We're working on him hard to get him more mentally focused because his skills are there. That's the big thing about playing in the big leagues, it's way more mental preparation than it is physical."

Jeff Caplan covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com.