Hamilton starts rehab in Triple-A after 'long, ugly process'

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Josh Hamilton is starting over, calling his return to baseball a "small miracle."
The former American League MVP spoke Sunday before starting his rehab stint with the Round Rock Express against the Nashville Sounds. He's recovering from shoulder surgery Feb. 4 and had been working in the Texas Rangers' extended spring program in Arizona since April 28.
"It's really a small miracle that I got back here because it was a whole, big, long, ugly process," Hamilton said. "I feel like the Lord had his hand on it to get me back here. I feel like I'm in the place I'm supposed to be in now."
He played in three extended spring training games last week before the Rangers stepped up his rehabilitation by sending him to the Express.
Hamilton said he's trying to be open and honest and hopes people understand he doesn't want to hide behind his mistakes.
The overall No. 1 draft pick in 1999 first began using drugs and alcohol after a car accident in 2001 that eventually cost him a one-year suspension in 2004.  Once he joined the Rangers, Hamilton was an All-Star in each of his five seasons with the Rangers. He led the team to two pennants and was the MVP in 2010.
After a 2012 season in which he hit a career-high 43 home runs and 128 RBIs, he signed a five-year, $125 million contract. He self-reported a cocaine and alcohol relapse this winter. That led the Angels to trade Hamilton back to the Rangers on April 27, with Los Angeles expected to pay most of the remaining $80.2 million he is owed.
"The last couple years obviously haven't been what I wanted them to be as a player," he said. "I haven't been that guy. It wasn't like I didn't try to put the work in and be that guy. But there were some distractions away from the field, and those are being resolved."
Hamilton said he reassembled his support group.
"That was a big deal," he said. "Obviously, I take full responsibility for allowing that to dissipate and change over the years. That was one of the things over these last couple months -- to realize `OK, when have I been successful? And when has my mind been right and I'd go out and play the best I can play? Who's been around me? What people were they?"'
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