The Texas Rangers shut down outfielder Josh Hamilton for the remainder of the season Tuesday to rest the pinched nerve in his back.
The Rangers began the day six games behind Boston in the AL wild-card standings with six games to play. Texas' loss to the Angels on Monday night clinched Los Angeles' fifth AL West title in six seasons.
Hamilton has missed 21 of the Rangers' past 23 games with a back problem related to injuries from a crash into an outfield fence. Manager Ron Washington said the Rangers are looking toward Hamilton's future by deciding not to ask their slugger to limp through the pain for a few final games.
"His back trouble isn't getting any better," Washington said. "Even if he did happen to go out on the field and play these last few games, we think it's better to let Josh get healthy and come back to spring training ready to go."
Hamilton was an All-Star last season while leading the AL in RBIs, and the former No. 1 pick's improbable recovery from drug addiction and alcohol abuse became a national inspiration. But this season has been an ordeal at times -- including the Rangers' previous trip to Anaheim in August, when online publication of party photos forced Hamilton to publicly acknowledge a slip in his sobriety last January.
Hamilton hit .268 with 10 homers and 54 RBIs this season while missing long stretches with injuries. He spent two weeks on the disabled list ending in early May with a strained rib cage muscle from a run into a wall, but he hurt himself again six days after returning while charging into another wall.
Hamilton had surgery June 9 to repair a slight abdominal tear, but said the pinched nerve and accompanying pain were related to his earlier injuries and rehabilitation. He received several painkilling injections while attempting to come back earlier.
Hamilton was batting .346 with 25 RBIs over his last 32 games before his latest injury absence, raising his average 48 points. He was the Rangers' designated hitter on Friday and Saturday against Tampa Bay after missing their previous 19 games, but his health didn't improve.
Although Washington refuses to make excuses, the Rangers' chase of just the fourth playoff berth in franchise history was seriously hampered by the injury absence of their two best hitters. In addition to Hamilton's woes, third baseman Michael Young just returned to the lineup with two hits Monday night after missing all but one game since Sept. 1, when he strained his hamstring.
"You can't expect young players to come in there and pick it up to the same level as these guys," Washington said. "We're still trying to win some games because we don't want Seattle to catch us (for second place in the AL West), but we're thinking about the future as well."
Texas (85-71) began the night five games ahead of the Mariners (80-76), who host the Rangers for a season-ending, three-game series this weekend.
Washington said he wants to take a look at Julio Borbon in center field before the season ends, and Taylor Teagarden will get a chance to catch "several games." Young relievers Pedro Strop and Guillermo Moscoso also will get ample work.