ANAHEIM -- Is Josh Hamilton back to using chewing tobacco, and is it related to his recent hot streak at the plate? The Angels slugger wouldn't say on Wednesday -- though video of his recent at-bats have occasionally shown a black substance come out of his mouth and an L.A. Times reporter saw him spit out a wad of chewing tobacco on Tuesday.
"I just don't have any comments on it," Hamilton said. "It's one of those things where if I give you guys any kind of story, your story's going to be different from his story, your story's going to be different from his story. And then other people who aren't in this clubhouse, with you guys, are going to take your story and it's going to be an absolute mess. No, nothing is coming from these lips."
Hamilton slumped in the second half last year with the Rangers, batting .259 with 86 strikeouts in 69 games. He quit smokeless tobacco in late July, then started drinking too much caffeine to compensate, which led to the blurred vision that prompted him to miss five games in September.
After the season -- after the Rangers had blown a five-game lead with nine to play -- Rangers president Nolan Ryan told ESPN Dallas, "His timing on quitting smokeless tobacco couldn't have been worse." And in December, when asked on Dan Patrick's radio show about his second-half slump, Hamilton said: "I quit chewing tobacco, plain and simple."
Hamilton stayed away from tobacco during the offseason, through Spring Training and for most of the regular season, posting a .207/.262/.378 slash line in his first 72 games. And recently, he has turned a corner, batting .400 (10-for-25) during a seven-game hitting streak that has him back in the middle of the lineup.
Has a return to tobacco use coincided with his improvement at the plate?
"Until you actually see me reach in a bag of chewing tobacco, and pull it out, and put it in my mouth, then what's in there?" Hamilton said.
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.