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Hamilton sees improvement in knee, takes BP

Rangers outfielder hopes to resume pinch-hitter role soon

ARLINGTON -- Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton has resumed taking batting practice in the hopes of resuming his role as a pinch-hitter as early as Sunday.

Hamilton underwent "cleanup" surgery on his left knee Friday morning and started taking batting practice on Wednesday. Hamilton said he noticed significant improvement immediately after the surgery.

"I am a lot better than I was," Hamilton said Thursday afternoon. "As soon as I got out of surgery, the first thing I tried to do was straighten the knee and see if I could fire up my quad [muscle]. I could ... it felt a lot better.

"Every day it has gotten better. Yesterday I took swings in the cage to see how I felt today. Everything is good so I'll do that again today, run on the treadmill and taking batting practice. You just don't know what they'll do once they get in there but it went good. Now it is how quickly you'll recover and not have any setbacks."

Hamilton, who was acquired from the Angels on April 27 and activated on May 25, has been on the disabled list twice this season. He missed almost all of June with a strained left hamstring and was sidelined Aug. 16-31 because of the pain in his knee. He was activated at the beginning of September as a pinch-hitter. He had just two at-bats before deciding to have surgery.

"I still harbor hopes of playing the field but at least pinch-hit and run the bases, and not get pinch-run for," Hamilton said. "That's the first step. We'll see how that goes, keep working on the running and get back out there as soon as possible. I'm not worried about the knee, but I have been out of a baseball routine for awhile so you want to make sure the legs are strong and don't pull anything when you get in there.

"Maybe pinch-hit by Sunday and go from there."

Manager Jeff Banister said the Rangers would wait until Hamilton has been cleared by the medical staff.

"We're not looking to force anything," Banister said. "The man had surgery. He had a repair. He's got to heal. When they deem him ready and he's on board, we'll take him back. I'm not sure what we'll get past pinch-hitting but if we get more it will be a huge plus."

With Hamilton out, the Rangers have been going with Mike Napoli in left field. It began with him playing against left-handers but Napoli started again on Thursday with right-hander Lance McCullers on the mound. Napoli is 2-for-2 with a home run off McCullers.

"I just like our fans chanting 'Nap-O-Li,'" Banister said.

Napoli has started four of five games in left, the first time he ever played the position. He did not catch a fly ball in his first three games but did throw out a runner on Wednesday.

"I like the look and how it stretches out the lineup ... the impact it has had on our lineup," Banister said.

The Rangers have had 12 players start in left field this season. Hamilton is still the leader with 27 starts and he has admired what Napoli has done for the Rangers.

"Seeing him out there is pretty special," Hamilton said. "He is going to do what he can to help the team. He doesn't complain about it or refuse to do the work. That is the type of guy you want on your team."

Worth noting

• The Rangers scored nine runs off of Astros starter Dallas Keuchel on Wednesday. It's the seventh time in Major League history that a team has scored nine runs off a pitcher who started the All-Star Game. The last time was in 2005 when the Brewers scored nine runs off the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter.

Bobby Wilson's home run on Wednesday was his first since Aug. 31, 2012 with the Angels. It came off of Mariners pitcher Kevin Millwood.

• Former Rangers first baseman Rafael Palmeiro has been signed to play three games with the Sugarland Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League. Palmeiro, 50, will play alongside his oldest son Patrick.

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.
Read More: Texas Rangers, Josh Hamilton