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09/30/10 8:12 PM ET

Hamilton fired up for Friday return to Rangers

MVP candidate to play three games; Murphy out for weekend

ARLINGTON -- Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton is expected to play in the final three games of the regular season. Outfielder David Murphy will not.

Manager Ron Washington said that Hamilton will start in the field on Friday against the Angels and play six innings. The plan calls for him to be used as the designated hitter on Saturday, then play the field again on Sunday.

Hamilton, who has been sidelined since Sept. 4 with two small fractures in his right ribcage, took full batting practice on Thursday without any problems. He has also resumed throwing, running the bases and shagging fly balls in the outfield.

"That's why he's playing tomorrow unless something unforeseen happens," Washington said. "I'm hoping, and my fingers are crossed."

Hamilton took 60 swings on Thursday, 40 on soft toss and 20 in batting practice against hitting coach Clint Hurdle. Then he went on the field and threw long toss with outfielder Gary Pettis.

"I'm fired up," Hamilton said. "I felt like this was a reasonable goal, especially after getting the [anti-inflammatory] injections [10 days ago] and I started feeling better a couple of days after I had them. It's not normal to come back this quick as far as conditioning and stuff like that. You would like to stretch it out a little more. But the circumstances are a little different."

All signs point to Hamilton being ready when the playoffs open on Wednesday against either the Rays or the Yankees.

"Josh is ready to play, so I'm going to play him," Washington said.

Washington has not yet decided if Hamilton will play left or center field on Friday, but he did say that Hamilton will play center field at some point this weekend, because that's where he'll be when the opposition throws a left-hander in the playoffs.

"Most of the work he has been doing lately has been in center," Washington said.

Hamilton sustained his injury falling into a wall while catching a fly ball against the Twins at Target Field. He was playing center field at the time.

It doesn't matter," Hamilton said. "I talked to Wash and asked where he was going to have me in the playoffs, and he said it all depends who is pitching, lefty or righty. It doesn't make any difference to me. The wall is going to be there."

Washington is not going to play Murphy this weekend against the Angels but expects him to be ready for the playoffs.

Murphy has a mild strain of his left groin muscle, and the Rangers are going to rest him this weekend, but the club believes the injury is not serious and expects Murphy to be ready when the playoffs begin.

"The injury is not bad at all," Washington said. "It's good to know it's just a mild strain."

"I didn't expect it to be anything significant," Murphy said. "It's more the circumstances we're under right now that causes a little bit of worry. If this were a week ago, obviously I'd be worried, but at the same time, I wouldn't be.

"It's definitely something that's going to be manageable. Right now I'm just going to wait a few days, and we'll figure out where to go from there -- if I need to get a cortisone shot. ... It's sore right now, but for a strained muscle, there are a lot of reasons for optimism."

Murphy will take two days off and then possibly start taking batting practice again on Saturday, but he won't play again in the regular season.

"We're not going to use him. Period," Washington said. "We're going to get him ready for the playoffs."

"It's definitely bad timing," Murphy said. "It could be worse timing if it happened the last game of the season. It's something that, if it was the middle of the regular season, it would be a week-to-10-day thing. It would require a 15-game disabled list stint. But these are all maybes, and who knows? The first time I get out there and test it, it could be great."

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