Hamilton starts in left field to test left knee

Rangers slugger had cleanup surgery on Sept. 11, plays all nine innings

Hamilton starts in left field to test left knee

HOUSTON -- The Rangers need to know if Josh Hamilton can play left field. The process began on Saturday, when he started in left for the first time since Aug. 15 and just over two weeks after having cleanup surgery on his left knee.

"I am as ready as I am going to be," Hamilton said before the Rangers' game with the Astros. "This was the goal. ... I can start building up over the next week or so and treat it like Spring Training."

Hamilton, who played all nine innings and went 1-for-4 with three strikeouts in the Rangers' 9-7 loss, went on the disabled list on Aug. 16 because of continued soreness in his left knee. He was activated at the beginning of September as a pinch-hitter but finally decided to have surgery on Sept. 11.

"It is not the same pain as before, it is a functional pain," Hamilton said. "I can do what I have to do. It hurts, but I'm OK with that. Before, the pain wasn't going to work. That was the whole goal -- to get it to where it would work."

The Rangers acquired Hamilton from the Angels on April 27 while he was still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and activated him on May 25. But this was just his 28th start in left field as he missed almost all of June with a strained left hamstring and missed time on other occasions because of a sore groin muscle.

"We know how the body feels," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "We know there are going to be some definite calculated risks with all of it. But it feels good enough to get out on the field and play, and we need him out on the field and playing. He is a guy who can impact the game for us.

"He's still day to day based on how he feels. We are at the point where we need to find out how it's going to go."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.