NASHVILLE – Josh Hamilton is starting over, calling his return to baseball a "small miracle."
The former American League MVP spoke Sunday before starting his rehab stint with the Class AAA Round Rock Express against the Nashville Sounds. He's recovering from shoulder surgery Feb. 4 and had been working in the Texas Rangers' extended spring program in Arizona since April 28.
"It's really a small miracle that I got back here because it was a whole, big, long, ugly process," Hamilton said. "I feel like the Lord had his hand on it to get me back here. I feel like I'm in the place I'm supposed to be in now."
He played in three extended spring training games last week before the Rangers stepped up his rehabilitation by sending him to the Express.
The overall No. 1 draft pick in 1999 first began using drugs and alcohol after a car accident in 2001 and eventually served a one-year suspension in 2004. Once he joined the Rangers, Hamilton was an All-Star in each of his five seasons with Texas. He led the team to two pennants and was the MVP in 2010.
After a 2012 season in which he hit a career-high 43 home runs and 128 RBI, he signed a five-year, $125 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels. He self-reported a cocaine and alcohol relapse this winter. That led the Angels to trade Hamilton back to the Rangers on April 27, with Los Angeles expected to pay most of the remaining $80.2 million he is owed.
Hamilton said he has reassembled his support group.
"That was a big deal," he said. "Obviously, I take full responsibility for allowing that to dissipate and change over the years. That was one of the things over these last couple months — to realize 'OK, when have I been successful? And when has my mind been right and I'd go out and play the best I can play? Who's been around me?' "