Hamilton (pinched nerve) makes return

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton was back in the lineup Friday night after missing 19 games because of a pinched nerve in his back.

Hamilton was batting third as the designated hitter for Texas in the opener of its final homestand of the season against Tampa Bay. It was his first game since Sept. 1.

"I'm very happy to be back out there," Hamilton said. "Obviously, it has been frustrating. At the same time, it ain't like I got hurt from not being in shape, or by swinging the bat, or running or throwing or anything like that. It was from hitting a wall."

Literally, and "very hard," he said.

An All-Star last year, Hamilton has been out a lot this season as Texas faded from postseason contention.

Hamilton hurt himself crashing into an outfield wall making a catch May 17, less than a week after he came off the disabled list following a strained rib cage muscle sustained when he ran into another wall.

He had surgery June 9 to repair a slight abdominal tear. He said the pinched nerve and accompanying glute pain was related to the earlier problems and rehabilitation to get back on the field.

"Physically, I'm good enough, and that's what matters at this point," Hamilton said. "The pain over the past week hasn't gotten any worse. That's a positive. If it stays like it is, I can deal with it."

Hamilton had several injections in an attempt to come back sooner.

Last year's AL RBI leader entered Friday night's game hitting .270 with 10 home runs and 49 RBIs in 87 games.

All-Star third baseman Michael Young was out for the 20th time in 21 games because of a strained left hamstring. His one game in that stretch was a single at-bat when he tried to come back Sept. 15.

Manager Ron Washington said Young "probably won't" play in the weekend series against the Rays.