Hamilton (left thumb) likely to be out 6-8 weeks

Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton, one of the hottest hitters in baseball, is expected to have surgery on his left thumb that could put him on the shelf until June.

An MRI on Hamilton’s left thumb, which he injured while sliding headfirst into first base in the seventh inning at Safeco Field on Tuesday, revealed that he suffered a complete tear of the ulnar collateral ligament along with a torn capsule.

Hamilton has already been told by the Angels’ medical staff that he will likely undergo surgery, which carries an estimated recovery time of 6-8 weeks, but it won’t be official until he meets with Dr. Steven Shin on Friday.

With Hamilton headed for the disabled list, outfielder J.B. Shuck has been recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake.

“The news sucks,” Hamilton said prior to Wednesday’s game against the Mariners. “Any time you play and you’re playing hard and you’re having fun, the last thing you want to do is do something that’s going to cost you to miss time and maybe hurts your team in the long run. If I could see a future, obviously I wouldn’t do it. But in the moment, when my mind and my body tells me to do something and react some way, I’ve always done it. That’s what I do. I can’t change that.”

Hamilton – delayed earlier in Spring Training with a strained left calf – was finally starting to display the tools that made him a five-time All-Star in Texas, entering Tuesday’s game with a .500 batting average, a couple of homers and a team-leading six walks.

But he banged his left thumb up against the first-base bag while trying to beat out a slow roller to shortstop, had a hard time throwing in the outfield, didn’t feel good while taking dry swings in the batting cage and asked Angels manager Mike Scioscia to pinch-hit for him with two on and none out in the ninth inning of an eventual 5-3 loss.

This is the first time he’s injured his thumb.

“When I got in the dugout, it didn’t feel like anything different than I’ve had before in terms of a jammed finger. When I went out to the outfield and gripped the ball and threw the first three 30 feet to the left of where I was aiming, that was an indication something might be wrong.”

Hamilton is confident he can pick up where he left off because the thumb injury allows him to continue to work out and even swing the bat one-handed. Injuring the left thumb, as opposed to the right thumb, is more ideal for a left-handed hitter, Hamilton noted.

“I don’t plan on being as far behind as people think I’ll be,” Hamilton said. “Everyone thought I’d be far behind in Spring Training without as many at-bats. It’ll be good.”

With Hamilton gone, I expect Collin Cowgill (RHH) and Shuck (LHH) to platoon at left field and leadoff, with Kole Calhoun sliding down in the order to give the middle of the lineup more pop. But I’ll know more when Scioscia talks pregame. Here are today’s lineups …

Angels (3-5)

Cowgill, LF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, DH
David Freese, 3B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Calhoun, RF
Chris Iannetta, C
Ian Stewart, 1B
Erick Aybar, SS

SP: RH Garrett Richards (1-0, 1.80 ERA)

Mariners (5-2)

Abraham Almonte, CF
Brad Miller, SS
Robinson Cano, 2B
Justin Smoak, 1B
Corey Hart, DH
Kyle Seager, 3B
Logan Morrison, RF
Dustin Ackley, LF
Mike Zunino, C

SP: LH Roenis Elias (0-0, 1.80 ERA)



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