Hamilton back with Rangers, ready to get back on field

Hamilton: If I Could Change the Past, I Would've Stayed with the Rangers
Hamilton: If I Could Change the Past, I Would've Stayed with the Rangers

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Josh Hamilton knows he never was the player the Los Angeles Angels wanted and expected him to be.

"I worked my butt off to be that guy this year going into this season for the Angels," Hamilton said. "They just didn't want that to happen for some reason."

The Angels traded Hamilton back to AL West rival Texas, a deal completed Monday less than halfway through a $125 million, five-year contract for which Los Angeles will pay most of the remaining $80 million the slugger is owed.

After a disappointing stay on the West Coast, where Hamilton struggled with his performance and injuries, and had a self-reported alcohol and cocaine relapse this offseason, the 2010 AL MVP is back home with the team for which he had his greatest success.

And he's ready to finally start his spring training.

"I've been working in the cage and doing all the things that I need to do to get prepared for a season and feel really good as far as my mental state of mind and my physical well-being," Hamilton said during a news conference in Texas before flying to Arizona.

Still on the 15-day disabled list recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, and several weeks away from playing again in the majors, Hamilton reports Tuesday to the Rangers' spring training complex in Surprise. He will spend about 10 days in Arizona before another 10-14 days playing for Triple-A Round Rock.

"I feel good about our chances to get a productive player," said Rangers general manager Jon Daniels. "This guy has been counted out a lot of times, and he sat out four years and came back and was the best player in the game. I'm not saying he's going to perform at that level again, he doesn't necessarily need to to help us."

Hamilton was an All-Star in each of his five seasons in Texas (2008-12), and part of the franchise's only World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011. He hit .305 with 152 homers and 506 RBIs in 647 games for the Rangers.

But he struggled in his two seasons for Los Angeles, with 31 home runs and 123 RBIs in 220 games. In his final games for the Angels, he was hitless in 13 at-bats as they were swept by Kansas City in the AL Division Series last season.

"Josh, from the moment he arrived here, there's been turbulence," Angels GM Jerry DiPoto said Monday. "If I could put my finger on why Josh had a tough time here, we may have been able to help him solve those issues."

Hamilton never joined the Angels this year after surgery Feb. 4 and his self-reported relapse. Arbitrator Roberta Golick ruled MLB could not discipline Hamilton.

Hamilton, who turns 34 on May 21, did his surgery rehab in Houston. But he felt he "would have been playing probably a month ago" had he been welcomed to be with the Angels in spring training.

"It didn't work out on the field. It didn't work out off the field," Dipoto said during a conference call. "From beginning to end, this is not what we planned. This is not the way we envisioned any of this playing out from the moment we signed Josh."

Angels owner Arte Moreno strongly indicated before the team's home opener April 10 that Hamilton would never again play for Los Angeles. Moreno is now paying a big price in a deal that had to be approved by Major League Baseball and the players' association.

The Angels are expected to pay most of the remaining $80.2 million Hamilton was owed: $20,234,973 this year and $30 million in each of the final two seasons. As part of the trade, Hamilton agreed to give up some of the money he was due under the contract, a person familiar with the trade said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because that was not announced.

Los Angeles had deals to send Hamilton to a pair of unspecified NL West teams that the slugger would not approve.

Hamilton moves from California, which has a 13.3 percent top income tax rate, to Texas, which does not have an income tax.

The Rangers will pay under $7 million of what is still owed to Hamilton, who can opt out after the 2016 season.

"When it was made aware to me that the Angels wanted to move me, my first choice was the Rangers. I've had a lot of good memories here." Hamilton said. "Looking back on it, now if I could change the past, I would. ... Probably wouldn't have gone anywhere. Probably would have stayed here."