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09/21/10 7:25 PM ET

Fractured ribs have Hamilton's status in doubt

ANAHEIM -- Outfielder Josh Hamilton is expressing optimism that he will be able to play again in the regular season after further tests on Tuesday revealed small fractures in two bones on the right side of his ribcage.

That optimism stems from finally knowing what the problem is and getting the right treatment.

"It's almost a relief to know there was such pain for a reason," Hamilton said.

Hamilton has been examined by Dr. Robert Watkins, a noted back specialist in Southern California, over the past two days, and further tests showed small stable fractures in the rib bones that two previous X-rays and an MRI had not picked up. A third bone was also fractured but has since healed.

Watkins gave Hamilton an anti-inflammatory injection at the site of the discomfort, and an epidural nerve-block injection for pain management. Both injections require 48 to 72 hours to take effect, but Hamilton is hoping that he can resume workouts in the next day or so and gradually start doing baseball activities again.

"I got the injections and I already feel better," Hamilton said. "We'll know for sure in the next few days if this will help. The biggest thing is pain management. The only thing to worry about making it worse is hitting the wall again in the exact spot. Swinging is not going to make it worse, throwing is not going to make it worse and running isn't going to make it worse."

Hamilton's goal is to build back up to the point where he could play four or five games at the end of the regular season. That could get him about 20 at-bats to get back in the groove.

"Whether it's at DH or in the outfield, it's all speculation," he said.

Hamilton injured the ribcage falling into the center-field wall while making a catch in a Sept. 4 game against the Twins at Target Field and has not played since then. He tried to swing a bat a week ago but had to shut it down because of more pain.

There had been almost no improvement since the injury occurred. Hamilton reported slight improvement on Sunday, but that was only temporary. The new diagnosis and treatment has Hamilton feeling much better mentally about the situation.

"I have to be optimistic," he said. "If not, I'm just moping around, dragging around, not doing any good for my teammates. I have to be optimistic to get back to where I want to be or need to be."

Hamilton may wear an NFL-style flak jacket when he plays. He has tried one and said that it does not feel restrictive, especially when he swings the bat. He could also be more careful while playing in the outfield, but that may be a dubious proposition.

"This close to the playoffs, I'll be smart if I can get back in there," he said. "But in the playoffs, I'm going to get after it. Most of the time, that's how you get hurt -- when you divert from playing the game the way it's supposed to be played."

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