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Rangers star Hamilton hampered by groin injury

Texas Rangers relief pitcher Alexi Ogando throws during the sixth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011, in St. Louis. Texas Rangers relief pitcher Alexi Ogando throws during the sixth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
By Ben Walker
AP Baseball Writer / October 20, 2011

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ST. LOUIS—Texas Rangers star Josh Hamilton would love to get a couple of weeks off to let his sore groin heal. Trouble is, there's no time to rest during the World Series.

Stuck in a power slump, Hamilton was set to play Game 2 Thursday night against the St. Louis Cardinals. The reigning AL MVP has been nursing a strained left groin for about two months and admits the injury is getting worse.

If this were the regular season, he said, "I'd probably be on the disabled list."

"It's OK," he said. "We got six games left."

Hamilton has not hit a home run in the postseason this year. He went 0 for 4 against Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals' bullpen on Wednesday night, and was hitting .267 with seven RBIs in these playoffs and World Series when he spoke.

Said Rangers president Nolan Ryan: "We've been aware of it. So far, it has been manageable. I'm optimistic that it will stay that way."

Hamilton estimated he was at about 75 to 80 percent strength. He grimaced during a check swing in Game 1, and said those half-swings were particularly painful. Asked if the injury affected him in other ways, he said "running and throwing and whatever else."

"If I need to run a ball out, I run it out," he said. "Otherwise, I save my bullets for the outfield."

Hamilton, in fact, checked his swing when he batted in the first inning Thursday night. He then shattered his bat on a soft groundout, and slowly jogged to first base.

Hamilton started the opener in center field. He shifted over to left field for Game 2, with speedy Craig Gentry in center. Gentry gives Texas another right-handed bat against St. Louis lefty Jaime Garcia.

"No, the move is not a concession," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Whenever I put Gentry in our lineup, he plays center and Hamilton goes over to left."

"It's obvious that he has some discomfort, but it's not enough to take him out of the lineup," he said.

With no designated hitter in the NL city, it was either play the outfield or sit for Hamilton.

"I can't afford to take Hamilton out of my lineup," Washington said. "Even if Hamilton doesn't do anything, he makes a difference just with his presence in our lineup, and I want his presence in there tonight."

Hamilton hit .298 with 25 home runs and 94 RBIs during the regular season. He missed more than a month after breaking his arm on a headfirst slide.

Hamilton said he felt he could still make a significant contribution, even if he's not able to use his lower body to drive the ball out of the park.

"I can hit line drives with my upper body," he said.

Washington said he checks with Hamilton every day -- and has for a while -- before penciling him into the lineup.

Hamilton has struggled mightily in the World Series. He went 2 for 20 in a five-game loss to the San Francisco Giants last season before struggling in the opening game against St. Louis.

"It's something he can manage. He's been managing it," Washington said. "It's just been exposed more because we're the only game in town. Everybody sees it. But it's something he's been managing, and we've been managing it. Like I said earlier, I expect Hamilton to come up big tonight."

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AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta contributed to this report.

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