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Hamilton gets back in the game

Rangers' Hamilton makes spring debut

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Josh Hamilton made his long-awaited appearance in a Cactus League game on Monday.

The Rangers outfielder is hoping the experience he gains this month will carry over into the regular season next month.

"Last year, I was probably too aggressive and wanted to do too much and gave a lot of at-bats away because of my injuries and wanting to make up time," Hamilton said. "I really want to focus on, especially in spring, going deep in the counts and making pitchers work for it. The pitcher will make a mistake, but if I don't give him enough opportunities to make a mistake, he's not."

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Hamilton, who had been sidelined since the first full-squad workout on Feb. 24 with a bruised left shoulder, finished 2-for-3 in the 13-9 loss to the Angels. He was originally scheduled to serve as the Rangers' designated hitter in Sunday's B game, but it was rained out.

"Body-wise, I felt good and at bat I felt great," Hamilton said. "I felt like I hadn't missed any time. I felt calm at the plate and I was under control. I felt like I was seeing the ball good out of the pitcher's hand. Overall, it went really well."

In the first inning, Hamilton capped off an eight-pitch at-bat with a single up the middle. In the fourth inning, hit another single up the middle -- this time on the first pitch -- and later scored from second base. In the fifth, he grounded out after five pitches.

"When I came out of the game, I felt like I had played a game," Hamilton said. "I have to go through all the initial soreness. It's hurting already. Other things are going to be hurting now as far as Spring Training. It's just good to get it going and get it out of the way."

Hamilton is off to a good start.

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He played in just 89 games last year after being slowed by a bruised rib cage in April, a torn abdominal muscle in June and a pinched nerve in his lower back in September. His next chance to test his body and patience will come Tuesday against Oakland at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. He will likely have a day off from game action Wednesday because the Rangers do not want him to play three consecutive games -- yet.

"I felt like [his debut] was something I can take throughout the whole season," Hamilton said. "I had deep at-bats."

Monday's game also proved to be learning ground Brandon McCarthy and Derek Holland. McCarthy, who has added a cut fastball to his repertoire, was charged with two runs on four hits in two innings. He struck out two hitters and walked one while working on the pitch.

"Overall, I felt pretty good," he said. "I was able to work on some things. ... I need to work on my command with a cutter a little bit more and get strike one with it. I'm kind of learning the movement with it because the pitches are new to me."

Holland, who sprained his right knee last month, gave up four runs on two hits in one-third of an inning. Only one run was earned.

"I'm not going to lie, I had a few jitters in my stomach for the first time out," Holland said. "I'm upset because I've should done better than that. I've been working hard and I want the results to be able to show it. I was a little amped up and trying to be too perfect."

In the morning's rescheduled B game, Rangers pitching prospect Tanner Scheppers and Michael Kirkman each threw two scoreless innings as part of 2-1 loss to the Royals. Reliever Warner Madrigal gave up the game-winning run in the seventh inning and outfielder Nelson Cruz drove in the team's only run with a double in the third frame.

"The things that happened in the game today, we will correct them in Spring Training," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "At least we started to swing the bat a little better and put some runs on the board. We still have to get better at executing and catching that baseball but everything else will take care of itself as we go along."

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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