Josh Hamilton near return to OF

Updated: May 26, 2011, 9:07 AM ET
By Richard Durrett | ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Josh Hamilton will shag balls Friday, meaning a return to the Texas Rangers' outfield could happen as soon as Saturday, manager Ron Washington said.

Hamilton likely again will serve as designated hitter Friday night against the Kansas City Royals. The 2010 AL MVP went on the DL with a fractured bone in his arm on April 13 before returning Monday.

"He said he wanted to get him a couple of days out there running balls," Washington said Wednesday morning. "He's only ran them down [Tuesday], so we'll see how he does Friday and what he thinks."

If running the bases is any indication, Hamilton certainly appears to be moving at full speed. He made three headfirst dives in the eighth inning Tuesday before being stranded at third base in the Rangers' 8-6 loss to the Chicago White Sox. Hamilton said after the game that he wasn't going to change how he plays.

Hamilton said he talked to Washington before he came back earlier this week to discuss what was expected of him.

"He said when it comes down to it, just play ball," Hamilton said. "It's good to have a manager that can say that to you. That's what I've done my whole life. I mean, I can't just change now."

Washington said Wednesday that he would prefer Hamilton not slide headfirst running to first base to beat out an infield hit. But he's also not going to hamper Hamilton's aggressive play.

"What I prefer doesn't matter because I'm not the one putting the ball in play," Washington said. "You can't control them when they're out there on the field in between the lines and I have no intentions on controlling them. Like I said, I'd like to see him run through the bag at first base and that's all I can say."

Washington said the coaches stress with all players in spring training and during the season to run through the first base bag. They don't want to see players lunging, which can also create injury issues.

"I never lunged," Washington said. "I ran through the bag. That's what you do."

Hamilton said he feels good and plans on trying to avoid walls when he returns to the outfield.

"It feels like my bones have healed up really, really good enough to where I can dive," Hamilton said. "Obviously, the only thing that you worry about is the same exact position, landing the same exact way and it re-breaking. But what are the chances of that happening if you know what I mean?"

Hamilton is 5-for-9 with a homer and a double since his return. Dating back to before the injury, the 2010 AL MVP has a 10-game hitting streak and is batting .405 with five extra-base hits, seven RBIs and six runs scored.

Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com.

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