Given choice, Josh Hamilton jumps at CF

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- If Josh Hamilton had his druthers, he'd play center field and only center field.

That's not going to happen because the Texas Rangers prefer that their MVP play left field where he's less susceptible to crashing into walls and will have fewer chances to dive for balls in the gaps in the name of making the spectacular play.

Which is exactly why Hamilton would rather play center.

"You have more chances to do that," said Hamilton, who is not in Friday's lineup against the A's in Phoenix. "I love to play defense more than anything. I love taking away from other people, not in a bad-guy sense, just having fun. Center field gives you more opportunities to do that. But, like I said I'm going to play where they put me and I don’t think about it too much."

Hamilton injured his ribs in each of the last two seasons crashing into the wall chasing down fly balls while playing center. Last season he missed almost all of September with cracked ribs. Fortunately for the Rangers, they had a comfortable lead in the American League West and got by without him. In 2009, he played in just 89 games.

Still, Hamilton doesn't seem to buy the notion that his odds of staying healthy rise substantially by playing in left instead of center.

"A quarter percent?" Hamilton asked. "I’m going to play where I’m told, but I feel comfortable in center field, I mean I do. The outfield’s the outfield. I don’t have any control where they put me in the lineup. It’s not like I’m going to go beg to be put in left field."

The Rangers hope Julio Borbon will be their long-term answer in center. But last season, as David Murphy pushed Borbon for time, Hamilton would move to center with Murphy in left. During the postseason, with David Murphy and right fielder Jeff Francoeur (now with Kansas City) platooning, Hamilton played exclusivley in center, where he made more than one spectacular play.

Borbon committed two errors in center field in the first two games of the spring, misplaying a fly ball and allowing a ball to skip under his glove. He also made a diving stab.

"Julio’s got all the talent in the world," Hamilton said. "He has the ability to be a great player in the big leagues. We’re working on him hard to get him more mentally focused because his skills are there and that’s the big thing about playing in the big leagues, it’s way more mental preparation than it is physical."

Of course, Hamilton does play a pretty physical center field. Which is why the Rangers prefer him in left.