Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton, who sat out two straight games to take a mental break from a brutal two-week slump, is back in the cleanup spot against the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night after a lengthy afternoon workout with hitting coaches Don Baylor and Dave Hansen in Fenway Park.
“He was very relaxed today, very upbeat,” Baylor said of Hamilton. “It’s hard for anyone to hit a ball off the tee and out of the ballpark. He did it a couple of times. The strength is there. He just needs to get his timing. He hasn’t had it. He had it for a while before he got hurt, and he’s kind of been searching for it ever since.”
Hamilton, who missed most of April and May because of a torn left-thumb ligament, hit .290 (nine for 31) with three homers and six runs batted in during a seven-game stretch from July 29 to Aug. 4, but he’s batting .132 (five for 38) with 18 strikeouts in his last 10 games.
Baylor doesn’t think Hamilton, one of baseball’s most feared sluggers when he played for Texas from 2008 to 2012, needs to make any major mechanical adjustments. Tuesday’s early session focused more on the timing mechanisms in Hamilton’s approach and swing, such as the toe tap of his front foot.
“He has to have some rhythm in his swing,” Baylor said. “Lately it’s been just set, stop and start again. I watched him from the other side for years. He’s a scary guy at the plate. We need to get him back to being that guy.
“It’s all rhythm, rhythm, rhythm. It’s almost like a dance step for him. When he doesn’t have it, he doesn’t feel it. Most hitters feel the same way, it’s either the hands or the foot. That’s why guys with toe taps are very difficult.”
Hamilton acknowledged that his struggles have put a major dent in his confidence, but Baylor stressed the importance of clearing your head in the batter’s box.
“It’s like Yogi Berra always used to tell me, you can’t think and hit at the same time,” Baylor said. “He’s right.”
The Angels, who enter Tuesday night’s game with a half-game lead over Oakland in the American League West, don’t need Hamilton to reprise his 2010 AL most valuable player season in Texas. But if can regain his swing for the remainder of this season, he could have a huge impact on the team.
“I just want him to find it for the next 2 1/2 months,” Baylor said. “If he does that, this team is going to roll. The AL really hasn’t seen what this team can do offensively. They did before the All-Star break, but the last 30 games or so, we’ve kind of been sputtering along.”