SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton said Saturday he'd be willing to discuss a contract extension during the season, if the Rangers were interested. The slugger also said he expects to play center field for much of the year.
Earlier this offseason, Hamilton had set a date for the beginning of spring training to get a deal done. However, both Hamilton, who is not in the lineup Saturday against the Cleveland Indians because of a tight left groin that he and the club don't believe is serious, and the Rangers agreed to table talks this spring after Hamilton had a relapse with alcohol before spring training began. But now Hamilton said that if his agent, Michael Moye, and the Rangers want to talk during the season, he would be open to that.
"If they want to talk to my agent, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it," Hamilton said. "If Mike comes to me and they want to talk about contracts, obviously, we're going to listen and he'll share with me what they said."
Hamilton said he's preparing to be a free agent at the end of the season so he can simply focus on 2012.
"That's the way I've got to approach it," he said. "That eliminates me from thinking about it. I'm not thinking, 'Are we going to get a contract signed? Or what are they going to offer? Or why would they offer that?' I can't think about that stuff."
Hamilton knows that how well he plays -- and whether he stays healthy -- can have a large impact on his next deal.
"It all depends on what kind of season I have," Hamilton said. "It's either having faith that I'm going to play all year and have a good season or I could say, 'Oh no, I'm scared and I don't know if I'm going to play or if I get hurt and if I should take any kind of deal that comes my way.' I have faith."
Hamilton said he hasn't thought about the contract and is focused only on playing well and helping the team in 2012.
"I've got a job and that's why it hasn't weighed on my mind," he said. "If this was free agency right now and I didn't know where I was going to be or where I'd end up, then it would be weighing on my mind. But I have a contract for one more year."
Hamilton said he's praying about it and hopes that God has him "in the right spot with the right people."
"I've been there for the last four years and in the fifth year this year," Hamilton said. "We'll see what kind of answers we'll get."
Hamilton said he trusts that his agent will decide what's best on whether to talk about it if the club is open to it at some point. Hamilton reiterated that he wants a "fair" deal and that his agent isn't looking to take advantage of the club.
"I'm just looking for something that's fair," Hamilton said.
As for how the Rangers will use him this season, Hamilton hasn't been told officially that he's going to start the season in center field. But he expects that he'll be out there more than was planned when spring training began.
"I'm excited about that," said Hamilton, who added he probably won't play Sunday, either, to rest his groin. "You guys always ask me what I prefer and I always say center, but will do whatever they ask me to do. That's still the same answer. I'm excited about it and I'll do the best I can to stay away from walls and stay on the field every day."
Staying on the field is Hamilton's biggest priority this season. First and foremost, he wants to help lead the club back to the World Series and win it this time after injuries hindered him from competing in last year's postseason at 100 percent. But 2012 is also a contract year for Hamilton and his value in the open market is likely to increase if he can stay healthy and produce for an entire season.
The only time he's been healthy the whole year was 2008, when he played 156 games. He has played 133 or fewer games the past three years in Texas and spent nearly six weeks on the disabled list in 2011 after fracturing a bone in his upper arm last April.
Hamilton is not concerned about his tight groin, which he started to feel when he hit a double in the fifth inning of Friday's 5-3 win against the Colorado Rockies, and then again as he ran hard to first in his next at-bat. But it was tight enough after he tried to get to a bloop single in the seventh that he said something about it and was taken out of the game.
Rangers manager Ron Washington said Hamilton won't play Sunday, but is expected to be in the lineup Monday night when the club plays at Triple-A Round Rock in an exhibition game.
Sunday's absence means Hamilton will leave the Arizona desert without a home run. It's the first time in his career he hasn't had a long ball in spring. He said he's pressed some the past few games trying to hit one, but still has to be pleased with his overall swing the past 10 days despite likely leaving spring with a .236 average in 19 Cactus League games -- both in left and center field.
An exam by Rangers physician Dr. Keith Meister, who is in Arizona, revealed the area that feels tight is not in the same spot where Hamilton experienced issues late last season that led to hernia surgery after the postseason.
"We feel better that Dr. Meister was here and able to lay hands on him and evaluate him and in his medical opinion, he doesn't see it as cause for concern," assistant general manger Thad Levine said.
Hamilton will still hit in the cages and get his swing ready for Opening Day on Friday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington against the Chicago White Sox.