BOSTON -- The last time Josh Hamilton batted second was six years ago, as a rookie with the Reds, fresh off climbing out of the harrowing drug-and-alcohol addiction that jeopardized his career and unsure if this whole Major League Baseball thing would work out.
A few days ago, Mike Scioscia informed Hamilton he'd be going back there, sandwiched between Mike Trout and Albert Pujols simply to, as the Angels' skipper put it, "get into a different neighborhood."
"I thought it would be fun," said Hamilton, who hit second on six occasions and led off 26 times in 2007. "I always loved hitting in the first inning. It doesn't matter where."
Hamilton's return to the No. 2 spot of the order came during Saturday's split doubleheader at Fenway Park. He had only two hits -- both of them doubles -- in nine at-bats, walking once and striking out another, but he hit two balls hard to the outfield and was playfully taken aback when asked about having "a couple" of nice at-bats.
"Dear God, I had nice at-bats both games," he said, smiling. "OK, my result was good a couple times -- but I hit the ball hard a lot."
Hamilton, homerless in his last 11 games and riding a .216/.278/.385 slash line, was moved up three spots in hopes that he can finally find the groove that has eluded him all year. Hitting between Trout and Pujols can be comforting for a guy who has seen the lowest percentage of fastballs this year (42.7).
"It's exciting, to step between Trout and Pujols," Hamilton said. "Not a bad place to be. I like it."
Will it change the way pitchers attack him, allowing him to see more strikes?
"No," Hamilton said, laughing at the thought that pitchers would approach him differently simply because of who surrounds him in a lineup.
What about seeing some more fastballs with Trout on base as a threat to steal?
"Where are they going to be?" Hamilton said, indicating that they'll still be off the plate. "Why does it matter where you get them if they're not gonna be strikes?
So, is there any benefit at all?
"Maybe they just get a little more distracted, the pitcher, so they might be more apt to making that mistake," Hamilton said. "But the pitcher has a plan for you no matter who's behind you or who's in front of you. Now, like I said, when Trout gets on base, it might make [the opposing pitcher] make a mistake. They might try to throw a changeup, leave it up, throw a heater and pull it across the middle, whatever the case may be, because he's trying to hurry."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less