Josh Hamilton was back in the Angels lineup for Game 2 of the American League division series against Kansas City on Friday night, much to the dismay of many Angels fans who believe the team is better off without him.
Hamilton missed all but one of the team’s final 23 regular-season games because of right shoulder, rib-cage and chest injuries, and he looked rusty in Thursday night’s Game 1 loss, going 0 for 5 with a strikeout and hitting one ball with a modicum of authority.
Afterward, Hamilton admitted that “the game was obviously moving a little fast.” In light of that comment, did Manager Mike Scioscia consider sitting Hamilton against flame-throwing Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura in Game 2 and starting Efren Navarro or Collin Cowgill in left field?
“I think, right now, looking at all the alternatives, it’s definitely worth playing Josh out now to see where it’s going to lead,” Scioscia said before the game. “He’s a guy who is a game-changer when he’s on. There is nobody on the bench who we’re looking at that’s going to potentially do what Josh can do.
“If it comes to a point where it’s really going the wrong way or we don’t see it happening, I think that’s a valid question and something you’ll look at. But we’re not there yet. He needs to get some at-bats.”
TBS analyst Gary Sheffield ripped Hamilton during Thursday night’s telecast, saying, “His body language is a bad sign. You’re in the playoffs. You have to show some fire and energy. Teammates feed off of that. When you see a guy strike out and walk back [to the dugout] like nothing is going on . . . that is a bad sign for this team.”
Hamilton’s on-field demeanor, though, is pretty much the same as it was when he won 2010 AL most-valuable-player honors with Texas and was still one of the game’s elite sluggers in 2012.
“Look at my career, how I respond and react on the field,” said Hamilton, who took early batting practice in 100-degree heat Friday afternoon before going 0 for 3 with a strikeout. “I’m not going to throw my helmet or slam my bat. I’m not going to set a bad example for kids watching.”
Hamilton’s teammates do not appear to have lost faith in him.
“I see a guy who wants to help out,” third baseman David Freese said. “He’s banged up, but he cares. He wants to be there for us. We’re rooting for him. I think his name alone in the lineup can help you. Whether he’s a guy who’s struggling or is on fire, if you make a mistake, he can change a game.”