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Hamilton out until May; Texas plans accordingly

Outfielder is 'disappointed and frustrated' with diagnosis
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers are planning to have outfielder Josh Hamilton start the season on the disabled because of inflammation in his left knee. While Texas is hoping he will be ready to go by the beginning of May, the team will continue to have discussions with a few of the remaining free-agent outfielders, including David Murphy.

Hamilton was examined by Dr. Jeff Dugas on Monday in Alabama, where he was diagnosed with inflammation around a capsule in the knee. That was also the original diagnosis by Dr. Keith Meister, who did the two surgeries on Hamilton's knee at the end of last season.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers are planning to have outfielder Josh Hamilton start the season on the disabled because of inflammation in his left knee. While Texas is hoping he will be ready to go by the beginning of May, the team will continue to have discussions with a few of the remaining free-agent outfielders, including David Murphy.

Hamilton was examined by Dr. Jeff Dugas on Monday in Alabama, where he was diagnosed with inflammation around a capsule in the knee. That was also the original diagnosis by Dr. Keith Meister, who did the two surgeries on Hamilton's knee at the end of last season.

Hamilton was given stem cell and platelet-rich plasma injections to help speed up the recovery, and he will be on crutches for the next seven to 10 days. The Rangers have set up an eight-week recovery program designed to get Hamilton back in the lineup by May 1.

"We are hoping to have him on a rehab assignment by the middle of April," Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine said. "Hopefully if we rehab this the right way, he'll be a player for us in eight weeks. Our intention is to give him a full Spring Training and not cut any corners. We are not going to have him for the first month, but we should have him after that."

Hamilton had surgery in September and again after the season, but he has been bothered by persistent soreness in the knee. He had a cortisone injection in January, but that only gave him temporary relief. Dugas told Hamilton that the stem cell and PRP injections have had a good rate of success.

"Obviously frustrating and a little disappointing," Hamilton said about the diagnosis. "You know, I had the surgery [in September] and was feeling good until I hit that wall [against the Angels]. I had the surgery after the season and was feeling good, and it came back. I had the cortisone shot and was feeling good until it came back.

"Baseball skills like hitting, throwing, it doesn't bother me. The more I stand on it, the stiffer I get. This was another option. The crutches aren't because I can't walk, the doctor just doesn't want me to put any pressure on the knee right now."

Video: LAA@TEX: Hamilton blasts two homers vs. the Angels

Hamilton has been told he could be back in as early as six weeks. But the Rangers have built an extra two weeks into the rehab program just to make sure.

"The doctor told me, 'If you were 50 percent better than you are now, would you still be here [getting examined]?'" Hamilton said. "I said no. He said, 'We can get you 50 percent better.' He said they have had a lot of success with stem cell injections.

"I have played in a lot of pain in my career. If I can function, that's OK. If I can't function and I'm in pain, that's a problem. If it's 50 percent better than this, I can go. There is always a chance this won't work, but that's the nature of it. It will never be right, I just want it to get better."

Hamilton was expected to be the Opening Day left fielder. But the Rangers still have Ryan Rua, who was the Opening Day left fielder last season, and Justin Ruggiano, who was signed as a free agent this offseason. Both are right-handed hitters. The team's left-handed-hitting options include James Jones, a speedster who was acquired from the Mariners in the offseason, and power-hitting prospect Joey Gallo. Rookies Lewis Brinson and Nomar Mazara are also in camp.

"We have some great candidates in camp," Levine said. "We are aware of the guys who are on the free-agent market, and we are still having conversations with some of them."

Murphy is among them. Other possibilities are former Rangers Alex Rios, Drew Stubbs and Will Venable. Shane Victorino, Austin Jackson and David DeJesus also remain unsigned.

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

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Texas Rangers, Josh Hamilton