Angels slugger Hamilton says he's feeling OK, is ready for playoffs



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ANAHEIM, California — Los Angeles Angels slugger Josh Hamilton says he's feeling better and is ready for the playoffs later this week.

The former AL MVP has missed 21 of the Angels' last 22 games because of shoulder and other upper-body injuries.

Hamilton worked out Tuesday, and said he's set for Thursday when the Angels host the wild-card winner in the opener of the AL Division Series.

"I feel good, just like yesterday. I ran, threw, faced a lot of pitching, so I'm good to go," Hamilton said.

"There's always pain, but the point is that I'm not having muscle spasms. It's been responding well every day. I didn't have any spasms after I finished, so I'll see how it responds tomorrow," he said.

Hamilton hit .263 with 10 home runs and 44 RBIs in 89 games. All of his homers came on the road, the first time in his career that he went an entire season without one in his home ballpark.

Hamilton is in the second season of a five-year, $125 million contract, which he signed as a free agent after helping the Texas Rangers win back-to-back AL pennants.

Manager Mike Scioscia said he's yet to decide whether Hamilton will be in his usual left field spot or the designated hitter.

"If he can play and he's healthy, he will play," Scioscia said. "He really looked good moving around, throwing and running the bases. We'll probably just bat him down lower to where he'll have a chance to contribute without having too much pressure."

"He's got a history of just coming in and finding it quickly. He did it at the end of the 2010 season, and I think there's a number of things he points to why he's comfortable and confident. And if he's locked in, it will make a big difference in our lineup," he said.

Had those injuries occurred in the middle of the season, Hamilton acknowledged that he would be taking more time allowing everything to heal.

"I probably wouldn't have gotten the 12 shots that I got," said Hamilton, who spent almost two months on the disabled list after he tore a thumb ligament on a slide headfirst in early April.

"There's a time to be smart and patient, and there's a time to just do what you've got to do to get back and play and help the team. I'm looking forward to it, man," he said.

Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker also said he's feeling fine. He hasn't been in a game since Sept. 15 because of a mild oblique strain on his left side.

Shoemaker threw during a bullpen session Tuesday and later seemed confident there would be no setbacks.

"It felt normal, which is great. I did a full bullpen again and everything felt great," the 28-year-old rookie said.

"It was an up-and-down bullpen, so we took a break in the middle just to simulate that. We'll probably take that into tomorrow and see what's going on. It was a blessing that it was just mild and it wasn't any more severe," he said.

The right-hander began the season as a reliever, but was thrust into the rotation because of season-ending injuries to Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs.

Shoemaker made 20 starts, going 14-3 with a 2.89 ERA in those games. He also won twice in relief, and his 16 total victories set an Angels rookie record.

Jered Weaver (18-9) will start Game 1 for the Angels. Scioscia has yet to announce who will pitch next in the best-of-five series.

"Matt Shoemaker saved our season," Scioscia said. "He's got to be the story of the year for our team, and it might be the biggest surprise in the league. Matt's been a guy who has always had to prove himself. Even this year he had to prove himself. But he got the opportunity and he's made the most of it."

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