Hamilton has right shoulder surgery, out 6-8 weeks
Opening Day in question after pain flared up when Angels slugger intensified BP sessions
ANAHEIM -- Josh Hamilton's tumultuous ride with the Angels has hit another speed bump, just weeks before the buildup to his most important season yet.
On Wednesday, 21 days before the first full-squad workout from Arizona, Hamilton underwent surgery to repair the AC joint in his right shoulder, a procedure that is expected to keep him out six to eight weeks and makes him doubtful to be ready by Opening Day.
Hamilton dealt with an array of injuries in his right side throughout September, causing him to play in only one of the Angels' last 23 regular-season games and then go 0-for-13 in the American League Division Series.
The 33-year-old took cortisone shots to fight off pain in his ribs and upper back down the stretch, but his right AC joint was the main culprit.
Though Hamilton has never gone on the disabled list with a right shoulder injury, the torque of his left-handed swing had led to arthritis in the area over time. Then, on Sept. 4, he aggravated the AC joint while fielding a liner off the wall and never really got better.
Doctors were hopeful that extra rest this offseason would counteract the need for surgery, but the shoulder pain flared up once Hamilton's batting-practice sessions intensified last week.
"It didn't bother him throughout the offseason," Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said Tuesday, moments after the team announced Hamilton's need for surgery. "He went into his offseason training and never had an issue until last week, when he started swinging full throttle again."
The surgery -- performed at Texas Metroplex Institute for Sports Medicine and Orthopedics by Dr. Keith Meister, who also serves as the Rangers' team doctor -- was expected to last about 15 minutes and consisted of shaving Hamilton's AC joint in order to relieve tension. The Angels said Wednesday morning that the surgery was "successful."
Dipoto called a return by the April 6 opener in Seattle "a little aggressive," but didn't rule it out entirely. The likely scenario is that Hamilton starts the season on the disabled list, then returns at some point in April. In the meantime, the Angels can use Matt Joyce in left field and perhaps C.J. Cron at designated hitter, with right-handed-hitting outfielder Collin Cowgill getting playing time against lefties.
Dipoto hopes Hamilton can begin baseball activities in "a little over a month," but there's no telling exactly when that will take place just yet.
There's also no telling how a surgically repaired right shoulder will impact a left-handed power hitter.
Hamilton batted .250 with 21 homers and 79 RBIs in 151 games in his first season with the Angels in 2013, then played in just 89 games in 2014, batting .263 with 10 homers and 44 RBIs in a season that also saw him undergo surgery on his right thumb.
The 2015 season is the third of a five-year, $125 million contract, and Hamilton will turn 34 years old on May 21.
"Nobody wants to perform more than Josh," Dipoto said. "We want him to perform, we want him to be good. He knows that, we know that. I can't sit here and express my frustration that he's hurt. My primary focus is to get him in a position where he's no longer hurt, then we'll work through the baseball performance. I know he had a frustrating season, and some, if not all, can be attributed to this issue."