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The Texas Rangers have lost reigning AL MVP outfielder Josh Hamilton for extended time because of a fracture in his right humerus (arm). The team has projected Hamilton will miss six to eight weeks, but the time it takes him to return to form may extend well beyond.
The injury occurred while running the bases in the first inning of Tuesday's game. Hamilton slid headfirst twice, first on his RBI triple, then again as he attempted to score. Hamilton told reporters that he heard two pops after sliding into home. An MRI later revealed the presence of a small fracture.
Hamilton will be in a sling initially to support his injured arm and allow the bone to begin to heal. Gradually, he will be introduced to range-of-motion exercises at the shoulder. As the bone healing progresses, he can initiate strengthening of the muscles around the shoulder. Swinging a bat will be off-limits for at least four weeks to ensure no setbacks to the healing bone. Although Hamilton throws and bats left-handed, it is often the lead shoulder that undergoes the greatest force -- especially on a swing and a miss -- during bat swing. For that reason, it is imperative the bone is sufficiently healed before Hamilton is allowed to resume that particular activity.
Beyond the healing, there will be the matter of returning to baseball shape. Hamilton will be able to maintain cardiovascular conditioning, but until he is cleared for all baseball-related activities, he will be limited in how much he can prepare. Then there is the matter of returning to his MVP form. Players have struggled with power in the past when dealing with injuries to their lead shoulder, and Hamilton may well do the same, at least initially. Even though his "injury" will technically be healed, it will take longer for the musculature around the fracture to regain full strength along with timing and coordination.
So fantasy owners, it's time to take a deep breath and plug the hole in your lineup, just as the Rangers plan to do. You might want to look at David Murphy, for example, who could get playing time in Hamilton's absence. (Eric Karabell has more potential options to replace the star outfielder.) Then everyone can hope that Hamilton returns to deliver the goods in the second half of the season.