Hamilton closer to Rangers return, hopes to pinch-hit soon

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Josh Hamilton kept trying to play through the persistent pain in his left knee, hoping to put off surgery until the offseason.

Unable to hold off on the procedure, Hamilton is already feeling better and hoping to be able to pinch-hit for the AL West-leading Texas Rangers by the end of the weekend.

"We're not at all worried about the knee now," Hamilton said Thursday. "Realistically, hopefully pinch-hitting by Sunday. Then we'll play it day to day."

Hamilton said he hoped to take batting practice on the field with the Rangers on Friday, which would be a week after arthroscopic surgery to clean up the meniscus in his left knee. He started swinging a bat indoors again Wednesday, hitting balls off a tee and soft toss. He has also been running on a treadmill and doing other exercises.

"Been out of the baseball routine for a while," Hamilton said before the Rangers played their series finale against Houston. "The biggest thing now is to make sure the legs are in shape."

The 2010 AL MVP said he immediately felt better after surgery, and already has full range of motion in his left leg.

Hamilton is still hopeful of playing full games again before the end of the regular season, maybe even in the outfield. After the Rangers wrap up their 10-game homestand Sunday, they will have 13 games left.

Hamilton has had only two pinch-hitting appearances since Sept. 1, when he was activated after being on the 15-day disabled list for inflammation in his left knee.

"Winning makes it a lot easier," he said. "I've just been focused on, 'OK, let's get this fixed and really do what I need to do to get back and help."

Hamilton is hitting .257 with six homers and 21 RBIs in 40 games this season for Texas.

When Texas reacquired Hamilton in a trade from the Los Angeles Angels at the end of the April, he was still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. He missed all of June with a left hamstring strain, an injury he sustained on a game-ending pinch-hit, two-run double only a week after he was activated for the first time.