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Angels' Hamilton aims to be a heavy hitter again

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Josh Hamilton arrived at Angels camp Sunday, hoping to play the heavy. The 6-foot-4 left fielder checked in at 240 pounds, a solid 28 pounds heavier than he was at the end of 2013, believing it would help his production.

"I feel a lot stronger," said Hamilton, who reported at 227 pounds last spring and finished the season at 212. "I had never really lifted heavy weights to gain muscle like this. ...

"It will help. My joints won't feel as good. I'll probably hurt a little bit more. But when I mis-hit balls, I was used to them still having a chance (to leave the park). Last year, I didn't feel like I was there."

In five years with Texas, where he was a five-time All-Star and the 2010 American League most valuable player, Hamilton reported at around 250 pounds, knowing he'd shed at least 25 pounds during the season in the Texas heat.

But after signing a five-year, $125 million deal with the Angels last winter, Hamilton, 32, trimmed down because he didn't think he'd lose as much weight during the season.

What he lost was his swing. Hamilton had a dismal season, hitting .250 with 21 home runs, 79 runs batted in and 158 strikeouts, and it could have been worse. He hit .329 in his final 45 games.

In an effort to regain the mechanics of the swing that made him one of baseball's most feared sluggers, Hamilton worked this winter with a "functional movement coach." Comparing video from 2013 to 2010, Hamilton noticed his hips weren't "exploding" and driving through the ball.

"I was kind of dragging a little bit," Hamilton said. "Everything works together. It's a big chain. If one link is weaker, something else is going to pick up. Professional athletes are the best compensators in the world.

"You play through injuries and adjust. The key is to not have to adjust, to feel good in your whole body. It kind of opened my eyes to setting up a good foundation before you start working out."

Asked what his expectations are for 2014, Hamilton said, "To be back to my old self, running around, playing not too reckless but being myself." His baseline goal is to hit .300 with 30 homers and 100 RBIs.

"Anything after that," he said, "is gravy."

TOUGH BREAK

Mark Mulder was doing a simple agility drill on Saturday, backpedaling, stopping and planting his left foot in the grass to move forward, when he ruptured his Achilles' tendon, an injury that ended the left-hander's attempt to return after a five-year retirement.

"I heard a loud pop," Mulder, 36, said Sunday. "I didn't know what happened. I actually thought the heel popped off my shoe. I stood and lifted my left foot. I put my foot down and had this weird feeling, like the ball of my foot wasn't attached to my foot."

Mulder, whom the Angels thought would challenge for a rotation spot, was fitted with a walking boot and crutches and will undergo surgery.

"I can't describe how excited I was because I knew how good I felt and how I could help this team," said Mulder, who retired in 2008 after undergoing two shoulder surgeries. "To have it taken away that quick, it's hard."

Mulder, who went 103-60 with a 4.18 earned-run average for Oakland and St. Louis from 2000-2008, has not given up on pitching again, but it will take five to eight months to recover from surgery.

Manager Mike Scioscia thinks he can.

"He was legitimately throwing the ball close to where he was in his prime," Scioscia said. "We were really excited. It's an incredible setback, but he was too close to quit on it."

SHORT HOPS

Left-hander Sean Burnett, who underwent surgery to repair a tear in his flexor tendon last August, is throwing at 90 feet but has not begun long-tossing. ... In addition to Hamilton, new third baseman David Freese and outfielder J.B. Shuck arrived Sunday in advance of Tuesday's reporting date for position players.

(c)2014 Los Angeles Times

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Distributed by MCT Information Services


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