Former top prospect cleared to play in Rays' minor leagues

Published: Saturday, July 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, July 1, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
ST. PETERSBURG - Troubled Tampa Bay prospect Josh Hamilton, on the restricted list the last two seasons, received permission from Major League Baseball on Friday to play in minor league games the rest of the year.
The 25-year-old Hamilton, the overall No. 1 pick in the 1999 draft, was suspended in February 2004 for violating baseball's drug policy. The outfielder hasn't played since July 2002 because of injuries and unspecified personal issues.
"I've treated this as my last chance," Hamilton said. "Just not in baseball, but when it comes to it, maybe in life. I'm going to take each day a day at a time. If I don't take each day a day at a time and I start projecting, I might end up where I was before. If I take one day at a time, one game at a time, everything will be good."
Hamilton has been assigned to Class-A Hudson Valley in the New York-Penn League. He plans to depart Florida, where he has been working out, Sunday and is expected to play Monday.
"I got chills, got a big smile on my face, all the expected emotions came about," Hamilton said. "I feel like I'm starting over again from scratch."
Hamilton was granted limited privileges starting June 2 that allowed him to begin working out at the Devil Rays' minor league complex with the extended spring training team. He didn't appear in any extended games, but did take part in simulated games.
"It's a very important day for Josh and us," Tampa Bay executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. "The most important thing is to keep his life going in the right direction. "He's really worked hard to get to this point. He's now got a chance to go out and play. He's earned it."
Hamilton, who received a $3.96 million signing bonus out of high school, hit .295 with 33 homers and 166 RBIs in 251 minor league games. There is no timetable for how long Hamilton will be with Hudson Valley.
"I really believe that all of us deserve a second chance in different situations," Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Meeting him, I really believe he's going to give a sincere effort to work his way through this."
Hamilton will continue to undergo drug testing three times a week.
  • ANGELS: The team swapped one Weaver brother for another, designating right-hander Jeff for assignment and replacing him with right-hander Jered from Triple-A Salt Lake.
    Jeff Weaver was 3-10 with a 6.29 ERA in 16 games this season. Opponents were hitting .309 against him.
    He got pounded in his most recent start, giving up six runs in two innings of a 12-4 loss to Colorado on Monday.
    Jered Weaver was 6-1 with two complete game shutouts and a 1.99 ERA in 12 games over two stints in Salt Lake.
  • INDIANS MARINERS TRADE: Cleveland traded first baseman Eduardo Perez to the Seattle for a minor league infielder.
    Dealing Perez could be the first of many upcoming moves by the Indians, who coming off a 93-win season were expected to contend in the AL Central. However, the club has underachieved.
    In exchange for Perez, who was platooning at first with Ben Broussard, the Indians got infielder Asdrubal Cabrera. He has been assigned to Triple-A Buffalo.
    The Indians also recalled Ryan Garko, a power-hitting first baseman, from the Bisons. A former catcher, Garko batted .255 with 11 homers and 49 RBIs in 78 games. His arrival, and Victor Martinez's recent switch from full-time catcher to part-time first baseman, could lead to the Indians trading Broussard.
    Used primarily against left-handers, the 36-year-old Perez batted .303 with eight homers and 22 RBIs in 37 games in his first season with the Indians, who signed him as a free agent in January.
    The Mariners, who entered the weekend two games back of Oakland in the AL West, have struggled against lefties all season. Perez batted .330 against left-handers, but only .091 from the right side. Perez can pinch hit, back up Richie Sexson at first and play outfield if needed.
    Cabrera, 20, batted .236 with 22 RBIs in 60 games at Triple-A Tacoma. He didn't make an error in his first 36 games and leads Pacific Coast League shortstops in fielding percentage.
  • TWINS: Minnesota activated outfielder Shannon Stewart from the disabled list and sent struggling Rondell White to the DL so he can start a minor league rehab assignment.
    Stewart has missed the past six weeks with a painful plantar fascia problem in his left foot, an injury that can linger for a long time in athletes without proper rest. He played in five games this week for Triple-A Rochester.
    Rookie Jason Kubel has been playing well as the regular left fielder, so Stewart will likely spend most of his time as the designated hitter.
    White was signed to be Minnesota's DH this season, but the veteran outfielder was bumped after two unproductive months. Last week, he had a cortisone shot on his surgically repaired left shoulder. White, batting .182 with 15 RBIs and no home runs in 181 at-bats, has experienced tightness in the joint this season - which he said has kept him from catching up to good fastballs in games.
  • REDS: Left-hander Chris Hammond was designated for assignment, Cincinnati's latest move to try to fix the National League's worst bullpen.
    Former general manager Dan O'Brien signed Hammond in December to an $800,000, one-year deal that included an option for 2007. The left-hander has struggled for most of the season, going 1-1 in 29 appearances with a 6.91 earned run average.
    The Reds called up left-hander Brian Shackelford from Triple-A Louisville to fill his spot. Shackelford also was with the Reds from April 20 to May 30, going 1-0 with a 7.71 ERA in 14 relief appearances.
    Cincinnati has remained in contention in the NL Central despite their bullpen, which ranks last in the NL with a 5.18 ERA and has given up the most homers (39).
  • NATIONALS: Washington will retain general manager Jim Bowden when the team is officially sold to a group headed by Theodore Lerner, incoming team president Stan Kasten announced.
    Kasten said he had admired Bowden before the Lerners were granted team ownership, and that Bowden's performance in Washington - including a highly regarded draft - was a reaffirmation of those beliefs.
    "I came in believing this was the course I was going to take," Kasten said. "This is what I always thought I was going to do. People close to me will tell you I have been talking about this for a long while."
    Bowden was arrested for drunken driving in Miami Beach, Fla., in May, but Kasten would not comment on the impact that incident had on his decision.
    Kasten and Bowden refused to discuss the terms or length of his contract, and both declined to comment on the future for manager Frank Robinson.
    The Nationals have struggled after a surprise first season in Washington in which they won 81 games. They are in last place in the National League East after finishing a nine-game road trip with one win, and could be looking to move some of their best players as the July 31 trading deadline draws near.
    Bowden, 45, was hired as interim general manager in November 2004, as Major League Baseball was planning the team's move from Montreal to Washington. Before that, he was the general manager of the Cincinnati Reds from 1992 until 2003.
    Bowden was credited with a strong draft this June, which included the selection of six highly regarded high schoolers in the first six rounds.
    Bowden said he cherished the opportunity to work for what he said would be a big-market ownership under Lerner.
    "I think the exciting part about it is, the Lerner family and Stan are dedicated to running this franchise the right way, from the bottom up," Bowden said. "Stan Kasten is dedicated to winning for the long term for the Washington fans. And that means building it right, starting with player development and scouting."
  • PADRES: San Diego added another former general manager to their front office, hiring Paul DePodesta as special assistant for baseball operations.
    DePodesta was fired by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Oct. 29, a month after they finished a 91-loss season.
    He will report to CEO Sandy Alderson and work with all members of the baseball operations department, including general manager Kevin Towers.
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