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Published: Sunday, February 26, 2012, 5:08 p.m.

Hamilton: 'My loyalty is here' with Rangers

SURPRISE, Ariz. — When it comes to the Texas Rangers, star Josh Hamilton wants to make this clear: "My loyalty is here."
A couple days after his comments led some to wonder about his future, the former AL MVP clarified his remarks Sunday before the first full-squad workout for two-time American League champions. Hamilton is eligible for free agency after this season.
"If it does go to free agency, the first place I'm coming is here," Hamilton said. "If I owe anything, it is that."
His agent and Rangers recently put off talks on a new deal after Hamilton had a relapse with alcohol. The outfielder has been troubled by drugs and alcohol throughout his professional career.
On Friday, Hamilton said: "The Rangers have done a lot for me, but I've got a question for y'all: Have I done a lot for the Rangers? I think I've given them everything I've had."
"I love Texas. I love my fans. I love fans of the Rangers. I love the organization. I love my teammates. I love everything about it," he said then. "But I'm not going to sit here and say that I owe the Rangers. I don't feel like I owe the Rangers."
On Sunday, Hamilton left no doubt about where he wants to play.
"This is where I've been. This is where my family's been, so obviously I would love to stay here more than anywhere else," he said. "First of all, they get a chance to do what they need to do to keep me here."
Hamilton was the 2010 AL MVP, leading the league with a .359 batting average and .633 slugging percentage while hitting 32 home runs. He hit .298 with 25 home runs last year in an injury-interrupted season, playing hurt throughout the postseason before having sports hernia surgery in November.
The Rangers had their first official full-squad workout Sunday since those last two World Series games in St. Louis last October. That's when they were twice within one strike of winning a clinching Game 6 before losing in 11 innings, then led 2-0 four batters into Game 7 before losing 6-2.
When asked if there was any talk about Game 6 before starting workouts, manager Ron Washington said, "That's in the past. That part of it, we'll leave in the clubhouse."
Washington, without elaborating, said Michael Young, the Rangers' longest-tenured player going into his 12th season, and new veteran closer Joe Nathan also addressed the team.
"The championship runs through Texas," Washington said.
In their quest for a third consecutive AL pennant, the top-hitting lineup in the majors will be basically the same. Among those getting new deals were slugging outfielder and ALCS MVP Nelson Cruz, catcher Mike Napoli and shortstop Elvis Andrus.
Andrus, who got a new three-year deal, did not participate in on-field activities while recovering from the removal of a wart from his right heel last week. The Rangers said he is day-to-day.
C.J. Wilson, their No. 1 pitcher last season, is now with the AL West rival Los Angeles Angels after a five-year deal in free agency.
The Rangers countered by adding Yu Darvish, Japan's top pitcher, to their rotation. The 25-year-old right-hander, who had a 1.99 ERA over seven seasons in Japan, has already had two throwing sessions in camp and is set to throw a 10-minute bullpen session or live batting practice to major league hitters Monday.
If there are contract talks for Hamilton once the Rangers get past opening day, the slugger said agent Mike Moye would handle them.
"If it's during the season, I'm not going to know about them because I've asked not to know about them," Hamilton said. "I trust my agent. He's not just my agent, but a close friend and mentor of mine, somebody I go to for advice and I really trust. I leave that up to him. I just say call me when there is something worth talking about.
"I'm just going to leave it up to him. If they approach him and he feels like it is something to go forward with, I'll leave it up to him. It's not going to be something I'm focusing on, concentrating on," he said.
Hamilton is instead focused on the field and being with his teammates.
"This is where it starts. Everything we want to do as a team starts today," he said. "It's going to be a fun spring. And a fun year, too."
Story tags » Major League Baseball

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