ARLINGTON -- Josh Hamilton's home run on Monday night was his eighth in 17 games. That's the fewest number of games in history a Rangers player has needed to hit his first eight home runs in a season. Alex Rodriguez hit eight in the first 18 games during the 2002 season, on his way to a club-record 57 home runs."Physically, he feels good and his focus level is where it needs to be," hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh said of Hamilton. Hamilton went into Tuesday's game against the Yankees ranked in the top three in the American League in the Triple Crown categories. He was third with a .408 batting average, first in home runs and second with 18 RBIs. "Sometimes I feel good, and sometimes I don't," Hamilton said. "That's baseball. The majority of the time, I'm feeling pretty good. The thing you've got to watch out for when you're feeling good is not expanding the zone way too much. That's going to be counterproductive. You've got to watch it, have a plan and stick with it." Hamilton also went into Tuesday's game having swung at 61 percent of the first pitches being thrown to him -- the highest percentage in the AL. "I don't think they're trying to throw him get-over strikes," manager Ron Washington said. "Hamilton is just aggressive. If you take that aggressiveness away from him, I don't think you'll get Josh Hamilton. You've got to let him figure it out. With [Adrian] Beltre in that lineup, he talks to [Hamilton] a lot, lets him know if they don't want to throw to him. I'll deal with it. "He has to go up there and decide not to swing the bat. You can't tell him not to go up there, swinging at first pitches. He swings at what he thinks he sees. He sees a lot. He does a lot. You leave that alone."
'Fit' Beltre returns to Rangers' lineup
ARLINGTON -- Adrian Beltre was back in the starting lineup for the Rangers on Tuesday against the Yankees after missing three-plus games with a strained left hamstring. Beltre injured the hamstring while running out a double in the second inning of the first game of Saturday's doubleheader against the Tigers."He's physically fit and ready to go," manager Ron Washington said. "He has no restrictions. He checked out yesterday. He took ground balls, moved well. The hamstring wasn't the issue. He's ready to go." The Rangers missed Beltre, particularly since they faced two left-handed starters in the three games he missed. The other starter was Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander. The Rangers scored just 10 runs over 36 innings without Beltre. "That had a lot to do with the pitching we were facing," Washington said. "I don't look for us to bombard every pitcher. You've still got to win some games 4-3 and 3-2." The Rangers have done that. Going into Tuesday, the Rangers were 5-4 in games in which they scored four runs or fewer. They were 26-51 in those games last season. "We missed Beltre, but this team has always been able to overcome adversity," hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh said. "This was just a small dose, four games. He's definitely a presence in the lineup and it changes the dynamic, but we should still be able to score runs."
String of righties may benefit Moreland
ARLINGTON -- On Tuesday, the Rangers faced Hiroki Kuroda, the first of four straight right-handers Texas is scheduled to oppose. That could help first baseman Mitch Moreland get untracked.Moreland went into Tuesday's game hitting .152 on the season, with five hits in 32 at-bats. He also had just two hits in his last 16 at-bats. Tuesday was only his fourth start in the Rangers' last 10 games. He missed two because games because of dental problems and didn't start in four others because a left-hander was on the mound. "He just needs the opportunity to get consistent at-bats and get a feel for his timing," hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh said. "We're going to face some right-handers; hopefully that will give him a chance to get some timing and rhythm. I think his dental problem set him back a little bit." The Rangers will face Phil Hughes on Wednesday, and then the Rays are scheduled to pitch right-handers James Shields and Jeff Niemann in the first two games of their weekend series. "I'm just trying to hit the ball hard," Moreland said. "I'm just going up there, sticking to my approach, working in the cage and playing my game."
Rangers keep roster options open
ARLINGTON -- By releasing injured pitcher Justin Miller -- who will require Tommy John surgery on his right elbow -- the Rangers increased their options in case there is an immediate need to call up a player from the Minor Leagues. The Rangers had a full 40-man roster before they put Miller on release waivers. Now, with an open spot, they can call up a player or pitcher who is not on the 40-man roster.That could have been the case this week if they had been forced to put Adrian Beltre on the disabled list because of his strained left hamstring. Third baseman Mike Olt -- who ranks as the No. 3 prospect in Texas' system, according to MLB.com, and is hitting .262 with four home runs and eight RBIs at Double-A Frisco -- is not on the 40-man roster. Neither are Triple-A Round Rock infielders Luis Hernandez, Tommy Mendonca, Yangervis Solarte or Matt Kata. The Rangers have a 40-man roster option at catcher in Luis Martinez, and in the outfield with Leonys Martin, Engel Beltre and Julio Borbon. But Brad Hawpe would have to be added to the 40-man roster if the Rangers decided to bring him up from Double-A at some point. The Rangers have several pitchers who could be called up from Triple-A who are already on the 40-man roster. Most notable is Yoshinori Tateyama, who is likely first in line. Also on the 40-man roster are Neil Ramirez, Mark Hamburger and Michael Kirkman. Hamburger (10.93 ERA) and Kirkman (7.27 ERA) are struggling, but Ramirez, after a rough Spring Training, is 2-1 with a 2.14 ERA in his first four starts. Some notable Round Rock pitchers not on the 40-man include Tanner Scheppers (4.50 ERA), Greg Reynolds (3.00 ERA), Sean Green (0.87), Ben Snyder (1.93) and Aaron Heilman (3.00). Neal Cotts, who suffered a strained ribcage muscle in Spring Training, has not yet resumed throwing.
Elvis Andrus went into Tuesday's game without having made an error in his last 49 games at shortstop, dating back to last season. That's the longest streak by a Rangers shortstop in club history. Michael Young held the previous mark with 43 straight back in 2008. Washington received the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum's Manager of the Year Award before Tuesday's game and said, "It means a lot. Individual awards don't mean much to me because it takes a lot of people in my position to be successful for me to have success." The award is the C.I. Taylor Legacy Award, in honor of one of the Negro Leagues' pioneers.
"It means a ton to me because the award is from a guy who was versatile like I was -- manager, player coach," Washington said. "He made a difference in many people's lives. That's what you're in this game for, to be able to make a difference."
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.