SEATTLE -- Texas General Manager Jon Daniels wanted to cover his eyes every time former Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton barreled toward first base and launched his 6-foot-4, 240-pound frame headfirst into the bag.
"He drove me crazy when he did that," Daniels said in a 2013 interview. "You have a 240-pound guy who is as fast and as explosive as he is … you just cringe when he dives in. You're saying, 'Get up! Get up!' But that's his style of play. I don't think you can take that from him."
Hamilton's aggressive — some would say reckless — approach usually serves him well, but his latest ill-advised and instinct-induced dive into first base will take the hot-hitting left fielder away from the Angels for six to eight weeks.
Hamilton suffered a complete tear of the ulnar collateral ligament and a torn capsule in his left thumb diving into first base while trying to beat out a seventh-inning grounder Tuesday night, and he said he will undergo surgery Friday.
"The news stinks," Hamilton, 32, said before a 2-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on Wednesday. "Any time you're playing hard and having fun, the last thing you want is to do something that's going to cause you to miss time and maybe hurts your team in the long term.
"If I could see the future, obviously, I wouldn't do it. But in the moment, when my mind and my body tells me to do something and react some way, I've always done it. You can't change that."
Manager Mike Scioscia said he tries to "persuade" players to run through the first base bag on grounders, but it's difficult to prevent aggressive play in the heat of the moment. Three years ago, Hamilton broke a bone in his right arm diving headfirst into the plate.
"Certainly, you wince when you see a guy going headfirst into home or first, because it's not something that's as natural as other plays around the field," Scioscia said. "But he's done it 100 times in his career. This is the one that caught his thumb."
Most players and coaches say running gets you to first base quicker than diving.
"I heard it slows you down," center fielder Mike Trout said. "I like to dive headfirst into second and third, but going into first, you lose your momentum and you can get hurt. But you know how Josh is. He's going to play the game hard. He thought he could beat it out. Things happen."
X-rays of Hamilton's thumb late Tuesday were negative, but an MRI test Wednesday revealed the severity of the injury, which could sideline Hamilton until June.
Hamilton, who seemed to rebound from a dismal 2013 by hitting .444 (12 for 27) with two home runs and six runs batted in through eight games, was put on the 15-day disabled list and replaced on the roster by outfielder J.B. Shuck, who was recalled from triple-A Salt Lake.
"It's definitely tough to lose one of your big dogs, your four-hole hitter, a guy who is a huge presence in the lineup and clubouse," third baseman David Freese said. "But these things happen. We'll battle through it. Guys will step up. We'll be all right."
Hamilton thought he jammed the thumb and he remained in the game for two innings defensively before being pulled in the ninth inning for pinch-hitter Ian Stewart, who struck out with two runners on base.
"When I went to the outfield and gripped the ball and threw the first one 30 feet to the left of where I was aiming, that was an indication something might be wrong," Hamilton said. "I went underneath and swung the bat a few times and just didn't have what I needed to go up there."
In Hamilton's absence, the Angels will likely platoon Shuck and Collin Cowgill in left field and bat Freese cleanup. Kole Calhoun moved from leadoff to sixth against Mariners left-hander Roenis Elias on Wednesday, but Scioscia said he will keep Calhoun at the top of the order most of the time.
What the Angels will have difficulty replacing is Hamilton's power and the threat he poses every time he steps into the batter's box.
"It's definitely unfortunate, but I think as a team you have to be deep enough to absorb injuries to players," Scioscia said. "Josh is a special talent who is off to a great start for us, and we'll do our best to fill that void until he gets back."
Twitter: @MikeDiGiovannaCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times