"Josh is now to the point where we're beginning the process of preparing to return him to the field, and that's going to begin at some point in the not-too-distant future in Tempe," Dipoto said in a phone conversation on Tuesday morning.
"We don't have a specific date for that, and we haven't talked through the details with Josh at this point. We're still very much in the planning zone. Like any other player, he's going to begin an on-field rehab process, and that will begin sooner rather than later. But we still don't have any defined dates."
Hamilton could work out there for a couple of weeks, then take part in a rehab assignment at one of their affiliates for up to 20 days -- the maximum amount of time allowed for position players on the disabled list -- and perhaps be ready to return to the Majors sometime in June.
The Angels still have to determine where Hamilton is in terms of his overall preparedness to play, particularly what kind of running exercises he's been doing. They know he's been hitting a lot, taking 200-plus swings a day since March, and teammates who recently saw him raved about his physical condition.
"He's all of 250 pounds," said Angels third baseman David Freese, who joined Collin Cowgill and Kole Calhoun for lunch with Hamilton on Thursday, while the team was in Houston. "But I think there's a lot of things going on between him and the Angels that nobody knows about. That's between them, and it's really going on behind closed doors."
Every option is still at play for Hamilton, who's owed $83 million through the 2017 season and has a full no-trade clause. The Angels could look to trade him, they could release him -- which means they assume his entire remaining salary -- or they could eventually fold him back into the team.
Angels owner Arte Moreno said on April 10 that Hamilton's contract contains language that gives the team recourse in the event of a drug- or alcohol-related relapse, a point the Major League Baseball Players Association quickly refuted. Moreno could try to act on those provisions, which would undoubtedly lead to an arbitration hearing between the MLBPA and the Commissioner's Office, but he has yet to decide on that, a source said.
The Angels didn't issue Hamilton a locker at Tempe Diablo Stadium or Angel Stadium, where any merchandise or images depicting the five-time All-Star have been removed. Asked if Hamilton will return to the team at some point, Moreno said, "I will not say that."
If the Angels' offense continues to struggle -- they ranked 21st in runs and 26th in OPS after Monday's 6-3 loss to the A's -- perhaps there will be more willingness to bring Hamilton back.
For now, all they can do is take the next step in his rehabilitation from Feb. 4 surgery to his right AC joint.
"We are prepared to begin the rehabilitation process on the field sooner rather than later," said Dipoto. "We don't have a specific date that we've coordinated yet, but we're getting to that."