Josh Hamilton wasn’t just feeling good at the plate when he tore the ulnar collateral ligament and the capsule in his left thumb on a head-first dive into first base in Seattle on Tuesday night, an injury that required surgery Friday and will sideline the Angels left fielder for six to eight weeks.
“I felt like my 2010-2011-2012 self,” Hamilton said, referring to a three-year stretch in which he hit .313 with a .370 on-base percentage, .583 slugging percentage, 100 home runs and 322 runs batted in for the Texas Rangers and was named American League most valuable player in 2010.
“That’s why this is such a bummer. But there’s no reason why I can’t come back and still feel like that.”
Hamilton’s left thumb and wrist are in a cast, but once he gets his stitches out and is fitted for a splint Friday he will be able to run, lift weights and swing the bat with his bottom hand. He can begin rehabilitating the thumb around May 2.
“As soon as I can start doing things, I’ll start doing them so I won’t be behind,” said Hamilton, who hit .444 (12 for 27) with two homers and six RBIs in his first eight games. “Mentally, I knew where I was at, as far as the hitting aspect goes. Hopefully in my mind I’ll stay where I was and bring that back into my work.”
Hamilton hit .298 with 25 homers and 94 RBIs in 2011 despite missing 36 games in April and May after he broke a bone in his right arm sliding head-first into home plate.
He hit .278 with one homer and six RBIs in his first eight games back that May but quickly found his power stroke, hitting .269 with seven homers and 23 RBIs in June.
“Josh is frustrated about missing so much time, but he’s been in this situation before, and he had an incredible year in Texas,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “It gives you confidence and hope that when he comes back he won’t skip a beat.”
The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Hamilton, who often confounded the Rangers with his dangerous head-first slides into first, said he “reassessed” his slide right after watching a replay of it. But when asked if he will try avoid such slides in the future, he said, “I’m not going to make any promises.”
As for those who deemed his play reckless, Hamilton, speaking to a group of reporters before Monday night’s game against the Oakland Athletics, said:
“What I’ve learned is no matter what you do, if something goes bad, you’re going to catch criticism. When it goes good, no big deal. It just helps you guys write about a bunch of other stuff … so you’re welcome.”