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Hamilton bulks up thanks to offseason program

Angels slugger puts on weight after entering 2013 season much lighter than usual

ANAHEIM -- Josh Hamilton made an in-studio appearance on MLB Network's "Hot Stove" show on Tuesday, joining hosts Matt Vasgersian and Harold Reynolds and, as the Angels outfielder planned, sporting some new bulk.

Hamilton entered Spring Training last year at about 225 pounds, roughly 20 pounds lighter than usual after starting an offseason natural-juice diet, and finished the year at 217. His goal this offseason was to add a few pounds, in a healthy manner, in order to play at a weight he's more comfortable with in the summer.

And with Spring Training starting in a little more than three weeks, Hamilton has added an additional 18 pounds, general manager Jerry Dipoto said. He now weighs 235.

"I've never lifted heavy, heavy weight before, so that's what I'm doing this offseason," Hamilton said on MLB Network. "Just trying to put muscle on, trying to have a couple of cheat days here and there, pizzas, burgers every once in a while. But for the most part trying to stay gluten-free, because that makes my joints feel better. So overall I'm feeling better."

Hamilton, four months removed from his 33rd birthday, batted .305/.363/.549 while averaging 28 homers and 101 RBIs and starting five straight All-Star Games with the Rangers from 2008-12, a stretch that also saw him win the American League's Most Valuable Player Award in 2010.

But the Angels have yet to receive that production, with Hamilton batting .250/.307/.432 with 21 homers and 79 RBIs in the first season of a five-year, $125 million contract.

"I'm as real as it gets when it comes to talking about faith and my relationship with the Lord," Hamilton told Vasgersian and Reynolds, "and He told me, 'You've struggled in areas of your life, and this is one spot you've never struggled before.' And so I had a couple different options -- I could be really [ticked] off and have a bad attitude, or I could stay positive, work hard, encourage my teammates, and try to come to the park every day and help them win. That's what I chose."

The Halos have reason to feel confident in what Hamilton can bring in 2014. There's the presence of new hitting coach Don Baylor, a former MVP and longtime manager who has worked with some of the game's best hitters and knows what it's like to struggle in the first year with a new team (see: 1977 Angels).

There's the fact Hamilton will mostly play his most comfortable position of left field, the Peter Bourjos trade allowing Mike Trout to be the full-time center fielder and Kole Calhoun to settle in right.

There's the added weight, which should allow for Hamilton to feel less need to overswing.

And, perhaps most of all, there's the way Hamilton finished up the season, by batting .329/.392/.518 over his last 45 games.

Hamilton said on "Hot Stove" that things started to click for him around August, when he watched video of his at-bats from 2010 and '11 and noticed how much better he was at driving his hips through the ball. Hamilton then underwent surgery for a sports hernia in November 2011 and, as he said, "When you have surgeries, things turn off."

"You start compensating, you start doing [different] things," Hamilton added. "The great thing about professional athletes is they're great compensators. They're the best in the world. So they get out there and try to perform. So this offseason, one of the things I've done is work with a functional movement coach, and getting things turned back on."

The Angels also have big expectations for Albert Pujols, who pretty much had a normal offseason after not playing past July because of a partial tear in his left plantar fascia. A productive Pujols and Hamilton, along with Trout, could make the Halos' offense one of the best in the game, even with Mark Trumbo no longer on the team.

"But you know as well as I do, pitching wins ballgames," Hamilton said on the show. "Good pitching the majority of the time stops good hitting. It just does. They know what's coming, we don't. And it's hard. We know it is.

"I've worked hard this offseason, Albert's worked hard, Mike has worked hard, and everybody on this team has worked hard, and we have a few new pieces to plug in, so we're excited about that."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Josh Hamilton