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06/29/08 6:06 PM ET

Hamilton gets day off from field as DH

Star outfielder dealing with minor injuries, decline in production

ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Ron Washington's decision to use Josh Hamilton at designated hitter Sunday came as news to Hamilton.

"That's great," Hamilton said.

But Hamilton's body language wasn't as enthusiastic. He's an outfielder, and that's where he wants to play. Nevertheless, he knows Washington has only the best intentions.

"Wash is the manager," Hamilton said. "He does what he wants to do and I'm going to do what he wants me to do. Wash has been in the business for a while. He knows what he's doing."

What Washington hopes he's doing is giving his star slugger as much rest as possible as the All-Star break approaches. But Washington's situation is more complicated than whether he should play Hamilton or rest him.

On one hand, Hamilton has been the best bat in Texas' lineup this season. On the other, Hamilton has been battling through minor injuries and ailments this month and those health issues have coincided with his recent decline in production.

Since the calendar turned to June, Hamilton has been bothered by a viral infection, inflammation in his left knee and a sore left hand, as a result of it being hit by a pitch.

"When you're out there throwing your body around, running around the way he does, you're going to come away with nicks every now and then," Washington said. "But he's going to find a second wind."

Despite the infection, his knee and his hand, Hamilton's goal remains to play in 150 games this season. Through 82 games, he's played 79. However, his last 20 games have been a far cry from his first 59 -- No. 59 being his fourth straight game with a home run.

Since then, Hamilton has only two home runs in his past 77 at-bats, and his average has dropped from .327 to .309. In his past seven games, he's hitting .167. Although he leads the Majors with 78 RBIs, he has just seven in his past 14 games.

Nevertheless, a hitter with Hamilton's talent is just one swing away from breaking out of a slump. Washington knows this.

"He's one of our studs," Washington said. "I can't give him four, five, or six straight days off. That may be worse. Sometimes it can hurt a player even more to give them extensive time off. He will catch fire again. He will. He's too talented not to."

In the past week, Hamilton has actually gotten quite a bit of time to rest. Monday was an off-day for the Rangers, he was out of the lineup Wednesday and he played only one inning Thursday after his left hand was struck by a pitch.

So, unless Hamilton's minor health issues turn into major ones, he should continue to see his name in the starting lineup -- even if it's occasionally slotted in the DH spot. And Hamilton is doing everything within his power to stay healthy.

"Whatever's hurting me, I get it worked on before I even go out to stretch," Hamilton said. "There's a whole laundry list of things I go through to stay healthy, but I've learned it's best to take care of anything that's bugging me right away."

Shawn Shroyer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.