Josh Hamilton to quit dipping

Updated: June 25, 2012, 9:52 PM ET
By Richard Durrett | ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton is trying to stop two habits right now: swinging at breaking pitches way out of the strike zone and chewing tobacco.

Hamilton, 31, said Monday that he's stopped dipping the past two days and is instead using some tea tree oil and menthol toothpicks that teammate Brandon Snyder gave him.

Hamilton
Hamilton

"It was time to do it," Hamilton said. "It's a habit and I don't really enjoy it like I used to."

Hamilton, who said he has quit for a few months at a time in the past to give his mouth a break, wants to quit permanently now. He knows it won't be easy to do it during the season. He adds that he's not playing with a full toothpick in his mouth, but breaks off the sharp tip.

"The tea tree oil helps kill all the bacteria in your mouth, so it's really good for you. The menthol is like a mint, but it's for your oral fixation, the habit of having something in your mouth," said Snyder, who also dips. "I'm trying to cut back. I told Josh to try it and he likes them."

Hamilton is also trying to break a recent slump. After winning AL player of the month honors for April and May, Hamilton goes into Monday's game with the Detroit Tigers hitting just .194 in June with one homer and seven RBIs. He's still hitting .319 on the season, thanks to a .395 average in April and a .344 mark in May. Hamilton hit 21 homers in the first two months of the season as well.

Hamilton has battled an intestinal virus the past few weeks and missed four games last weekend because of it.

"I felt better yesterday," said Hamilton, who has accumulated more fan votes for the All-Star Game than anyone else so far in 2012 and will likely start for the fifth consecutive time. "Hopefully I'll feel better today. There's no specific thing going on. I go through phases of being a little jumpy, trying to do too much, all the normal things that I battle. It's just getting back in the routine of things and feeling good after the sicknesses and all that stuff."

Hamilton met with manager Ron Washington over the weekend. The skipper is preaching that Hamilton find patience at the plate. He's been swinging at pitches well out of the strike zone and had seven strikeouts in two games against Colorado Rockies on Friday and Saturday.

"I'm not trying to put too much on Hamilton's mind," Washington said. "He'll figure it out. It's not going to be a quick fix."

Hamilton admitted that having that patience to avoid swinging at pitches that aren't in his hitting zone is difficult for him.

"Starting on time is a big key," Hamilton said. "If I start too early or too late, then I'm pretty much screwed for that at-bat unless I make the adjustment while the at-bat is going on. And right now I'm not in a position to make the adjustment while the bat is going on."

Hamilton said if he starts on time, he recognizes and sees pitches better, he can wait longer before making a decision and can better lay off the pitches he shouldn't swing at. He's watched video and spent some time in the batting cages with hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh.

"Everything has been good in the cage for the last two weeks," Hamilton said. "It's just when I get out on the field, things become a little big (meaning his swing). It's about translating the cage work to the field. When you're in the game, you can't think about it. What comes out comes out and you go back and you work on it in the cage the next day."

Hamilton has gone through many slumps in his career and is confident he'll snap out of this one too.

"I don't worry about it," Hamilton said. "If I continue to stay healthy, I'm going to have a hotter time again, people can't hardly get me out. But it kind of comes up and down. It goes up and down, but you try to limit the down and move forward from there."

The last time Hamilton had seven strikeouts in two games was against Toronto in May 2010. He went on a 10-game hitting streak after that.

"Watch out," Hamilton said, smiling. "I remember that."

Hamilton said he tries to avoid thinking too much about what he must do and just react. He admits that it's human nature to get frustrated and at times Hamilton's body language shows that.

"I think 98 percent of hitting is mental," Hamilton said. "So you want to have confidence when you go up there. The more confidence you have, the easier it is, the less you try to do, and it works better. Human nature is start overthinking, think about what happened last at-bat, what he tried to do to you, kind of snowballs, and you just naturally think about it."

Hamilton said his focus is getting better every day and ending this current slump.

"I've played a long time, from the time I was a little kid, and even then you had great weeks and a month and or half a summer, then not so great," Hamilton said. "It's not about being good all the time because you can go through ups and downs, but how do you respond? How do you react when you go through those times of being down and not doing what you think is up to par for you? As players, we're hardest on ourselves."

Richard Durrett joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He writes about colleges, the Dallas Stars and the Texas Rangers. Richard spent nine years at The Dallas Morning News covering the Rangers, Stars, colleges, motorsports and high schools.

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