ANAHEIM, Calif. — It wasn’t just the injury that hacked Josh Hamilton, or even the way it happened. It was the timing.
Hamilton was just eight games into the new season, but he hadn’t felt this good at the plate since joining the Angels at the start of the 2013 season. He was seeing the ball well and driving it, just like old times.
Then it happened. Hamilton tore a ligament in his left thumb sliding head-first into first base last week at Seattle. Now he’s looking at a long recovery – six weeks maybe, perhaps longer.
The injury wiped out a start that compared favorably to the final two months of last season when he hit .329 after Aug. 8.
"I was feeling better" at the plate than last season he said Monday, three days after surgery. "I felt like my old self, my 2010, ’11, ’12 self. That’s why it’s a bummer. But there’s no reason why, when I come back, I won’t still feel like that."
Sincerely appreciate all the support and encouragement I’ve received over the past couple days. Y’all are awesome. #ThankYou
Hamilton, who was hitting .444 (12 for 27) with two home runs and six RBI, said the stitches will be removed from his thumb on Friday, after which he’ll be able to start running and lifting. But any rehab involving hitting won’t begin until May 2 at the earliest.
"When I get the stitches out, I’ll be able to start running, lifting, doing all the things I need to do to keep in shape, even swinging with my bottom hand off the tee," he said. "As soon as I can start doing things, I’ll start doing it, so when I do come back, I won’t be behind."
This isn’t the first time Hamilton has been derailed by injury. In 2011, he missed 36 games with a broken bone in his right arm, suffered while sliding into home plate, but he still hit .298 with 25 homers and 94 RBI that season.
"Obviously, he’s frustrated at missing so much time, but he’s been in this situation before and come back and had an incredible year with Texas," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "So the fact he’s done it gives him confidence, and hopefully he doesn’t skip a beat when he comes right back in the lineup."
Hamilton said he won’t travel with the team on its upcoming nine-game trip that begins Friday in Detroit. In May, when the team travels to Toronto and Philadelphia, he will likely start his rehab in Arizona.
For now, he’s wearing a cast covered by a bandage on his left hand. After the stitches are removed, he’ll have a removable splint-like cast that will allow him to swing a bat. Because the injury is to his left hand, it will allow him to swing off a tee without putting pressure on his thumb.
And what about those head-first slides? Is he done with them?