demons in Cincinnati, and now he wants to conquer his future in Texas.
One of baseball's best comeback stories during his breakout
rookie year, the 26-year-old center fielder whose career was nearly
derailed by alcohol and drug abuse was traded Friday from the Reds
to the Rangers for pitchers Edinson Volquez and Danny Herrera.
Hamilton batted .292 with 19 homers and 47 RBIs in 298 at-bats
this year. He fills one of the biggest needs for the Rangers, who
parted with one of their top pitching prospects in Volquez.
"The second season after being out for 3 1/2 years is an important
season," said Hamilton, who has gone through eight rehab programs
for addiction to alcohol and crack cocaine. "This is maybe where I
start becoming an established big leaguer."
The Rangers also appear close to landing free agent reliever
Eddie Guardado, who pitched for the Reds this year. General manager
Jon Daniels said he expected the club to sign the left-hander but
would not commit to a timetable.
Daniels was eager to commit to Hamilton, calling him a sorely
needed "impact bat."
Hamilton's rookie season was interrupted by an inflamed
digestive track and a sprained wrist, but he still received 151,000
write-in votes for the All-Star Game, the top total in the NL.
Daniels said a physical and battery of tests gave him confidence
in Hamilton's health.
"We've done about everything we could have done with him
without moving in with him in Raleigh," said Daniels, referring to
Hamilton's hometown in North Carolina.
Volquez, a 24-year-old right-hander, was 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA in
six starts for the Rangers last season and is considered one of
their top pitching prospects. He was honored as their top minor
league pitcher this year.
"The numbers he put up in Double-A and Triple-A were
impressive," Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky said. "The trade
would not have been done unless we felt he was ready to compete and
win a job in the rotation in '08."
Hamilton was out of baseball from 2003-06. He has been clean
more than two years, allowing him to get his life in order and
resume his career.
The Reds got him in the Rule 5 draft before last season.
Hamilton was warmly received in Cincinnati, where he readily shared
his life story and became a fan favorite. He was expendable because
the Reds already have outfielders Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn,
Norris Hopper and Ryan Freel.
The Rangers had been looking for a center fielder. Even last
week after the club signed Milton Bradley, manager Ron Washington
talked about looking for a "natural center fielder."
Bradley, coming off knee surgery, will be a right fielder and
Krivsky said Hamilton's injuries last season didn't play a role
in the Reds' willingness to trade him.
"When you haven't played for four years and haven't gone
through a 162-game schedule, you're bound to have a few more
injuries than the next guy," Krivsky said. "It was a learning
experience for him. He went through the grind for the first time in
Daniels said because of the holiday, he wasn't sure when the
Rangers might complete a deal for Guardado. The 37-year-old former
closer is coming back from reconstructive elbow surgery in
September 2006. The Reds declined his 2008 contract option, which
would have paid him $3.5 million, allowing him to become a free
The 23-year-old Herrera spent most of last season at Double-A,
going 5-2 with a 3.78 ERA in 34 relief appearances.