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05/26/09 7:58 PM ET

Hamilton gets the nod at DH vs. Yanks

Rangers slugger started 15 games at designated hitter in '08

ARLINGTON -- Josh Hamilton started at designated hitter on Tuesday, the first time he has been in the lineup at a position other than center field this season.

"He played four straight games in the outfield," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "I wanted to give him a day off his feet. It looks like he's starting to get his swing back, so I wanted to let him concentrate on that."

Last year, Hamilton started 15 games at designated hitter and 33 games in right field. It was Washington's way of giving him some relief from playing center field, where there is a lot more running involved and much more wear-and-tear on the body.

The plan worked because Hamilton ended up playing in 156 games when the Rangers were openly saying in Spring Training they were hoping he could play in 140 games. He played in just 90 games for the Reds in 2007 because of various injuries and illnesses.

"That was part of it," Washington said. "The other part was he felt he had something to prove to his teammates and didn't want to let them down. So he made himself go out there on days that I didn't want him to play. Since he came off the disabled list, he wants to play every day, so I've got to find a way to make it less stressful."

Hamilton missed two weeks earlier this season after crashing into a wall in center field in Toronto. He was activated on May 12, played in six straight games and then missed three more when he crashed into a wall making a great catch on May 17 against the Angels. He suffered a strained groin muscle from that and still has some soreness in his midsection, although it's more in the abdominal area.

"Last year, I don't remember running straight into a wall," Hamilton said. "When I did it, it was more of a glancing blow. This year, I've done it twice already."

Hamilton didn't really like being used at DH last year and on occasion tried to talk his way out of being used there. He did well when he was in there, hitting .317 with four home runs and 13 RBIs in 60 at-bats. Now he is more accepting of the role.

"It's always good to get a day when you can concentrate on one thing and that's hitting," Hamilton said. "Last year, I got to learn about being a DH, like getting warmed up and in a sweat before you go up there, rather than just going up there cold."

Washington has yet to start Hamilton in right field. One reason is because he has an everyday right fielder in Nelson Cruz, who was hitting .458 (11-for-24) with five home runs and 10 RBIs in his past six games. Washington said Hamilton will play right field some this season but not right now.

"The way Cruz is going, I couldn't yank him," Washington said, "but I will get Hamilton in right field."

Hamilton is starting to heat up as well. Since coming back from the disabled list, he is hitting .289 (11-for-38) with three doubles, one triple, four home runs and 10 RBIs in 11 games. He has a .737 slugging percentage in that stretch as well.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.