Scioscia: Hamilton close to reporting to spring camp

Josh Hamilton's Road Back Is Blocked by Arte Moreno
Josh Hamilton's Road Back Is Blocked by Arte Moreno

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Los Angeles Angels left fielder Josh Hamilton is close to reporting to extended spring training in Arizona.

Hamilton, who has been recovering from surgery on Feb. 4 to repair the AC joint in his right shoulder, was visited by manager Mike Scioscia in Houston last week prior to the Angels' weekend series with the Astros.

Arbitrator Roberta Golick ruled April 3 that Hamilton cannot be disciplined under Major League Baseball's drug agreement for his self-reported relapse into alcohol and cocaine use.

Hamilton missed all of spring training, and will need time to get back into shape. The Angels will evaluate Hamilton when he reports to their complex in Tempe.

"It will be this week, and every day hopefully will bring a little more clarity to the situation," Scioscia said Tuesday. "I think first and foremost, the support and help that Josh needs will be provided. I think it's an important first step for us as an organization to help Josh as a person, and that's the first step to getting him prepared to come and play for us.

"I don't know what form that help is going to take, but that's what Josh is going to need before he's out here playing on a baseball field. There's a lot of evaluating that needs to take place with Josh, both on and off the field. I know that he's itching to get going."

Hamilton, a five-time All-Star and 2010 AL MVP, is in the third season of a $125 million, five-year contract that calls for him to receive $83 million over the final three years. He has a full no-trade clause.

"Hopefully he'll make that transition to his baseball activities and get into rehab games and see where it goes," Scioscia said. "What's best for Josh is what's best for us. That's where the focus is."

Hamilton's locker at Angel Stadium is currently being used by second baseman Johnny Giavotella, and there is no merchandise in the Angels' souvenir shop with his name or likeness.

When asked April 10 if Hamilton definitely will play again for Los Angeles, owner Arte Moreno replied: "I will not say that." Moreno asserted the Angels have language in Hamilton's contract protecting them against a relapse by the troubled outfielder and said, without going into details, the team was exploring whether to use that protection. The players' association said the drug agreement and labor contract supersede any individual contract provisions.

Referring to comments by team president John Carpino and general manager Jerry Dipoto, Scioscia said they expressed "the frustration of how the drug agreement does not provide a player with the help and support and the resources he needs," Scioscia said.

"Josh is an extreme case that probably tested the limits of a lot of programs, but that was what we were left with," Scioscia said. "Our organization has always had players' best interests at heart. The issue was addressing the needs of a player, and to some extent, the burden is on us to get it done. And that's what's happening now."

Scioscia was a Dodgers teammate of the late Steve Howe, who also had abused drug and alcohol. But he declined to compare the two situations.

"This disease is just hideous and tough to deal with," was all Scioscia would say. "There's a lot of people who deal with it every day, and we're going to make sure that Josh has the tools and the support in place to be able to deal with it and get back to doing what he wants to do. And that's play baseball.

"I can guarantee that the priority for what we're about is to get a player whole. And that takes help and support, which up until now we weren't sure whether it was being provided with Josh."

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