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Rangers expect Hamilton to produce in ALDS

Club looks for left fielder to do damage as he enters postseason on upswing

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers expect Josh Hamilton to be a complete player when the American League Division Series begins against the Blue Jays on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. CT (FS1/Sportsnet).

They expect him to play left field for all nine innings and continue to do damage in the lower half of the Rangers' lineup.

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"Josh, essentially, it's all go, until we say he can't go," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "That's the way we treat it with all of our players."

Hamilton has had a difficult time staying in the lineup since going on the disabled list on Aug. 15 with soreness in his left knee. He was activated on Sept. 1 as a pinch-hitter, but the pain was still too much and he underwent surgery on Sept. 11.

The surgery proved to be a minor "cleanup," and he was back in left field two weeks later. He has played a full game in four of his six starts and is 6-for-24 with two home runs in those games. He was 3-for-8 in the final two games against the Angels.

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It is a small sample, but Hamilton appears to be heading into postseason finally on the upswing.

"I think so, mentally at least," Hamilton said.

There may be some concern about how Hamilton's knee will hold up for two games on the artificial turf at the Rogers Centre, but this is not the old hard-as-rock turf that was there for many years. The Blue Jays have gone with the much softer Field Turf this season that has drawn much fewer complaints than in years past.

"I'll try to limit as much time on the turf before the game to protect the knee," Hamilton said. "Other than that, I am mentally in a good place. I'm just excited to be in the position we're in now."

Hamilton was in postseason with the Angels last year, and it didn't go well. He missed almost all of September with pain in his right shoulder and did not play in the final two weeks of the regular season. He was in the lineup for ALDS against the Royals but was 0-for-13 as the Angels were swept.

"I really don't think about that kind of stuff," Hamilton said. "I kept feeling like the next at-bat I would get locked in again."

The difference was the Angels needed him badly in the middle of the lineup. He has been batting sixth for the Rangers, and they have both Mike Napoli and Will Venable ready if needed.

"I'm not trying to do too much, just try to have better at-bats," Hamilton said. "I have a lot of guys in front of me doing damage. I feel like if I can get on and/or have good at-bats, that can keep the chain going."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.
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