Young leaves after one at-bat

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Michael Young figured he waited long enough to return to the Texas Rangers lineup. It took only one at-bat for him to determine that he came back too soon.

Young, who had missed two weeks because of a strained left hamstring, was in the lineup against Oakland as the designated hitter Tuesday night. The All-Star third baseman pulled himself after he flied out in the first inning, when he fouled off three of the eight pitches he faced.

"I felt great in batting practice, ran around great, and then the second pitch he threw me, I got off-balance, landed on my front side a little too hard and it just grabbed," Young said after the Rangers' 6-1 loss. "I didn't want to make it worse. I've been making too much progress. But nothing got worse. I just wasn't ready."

Young said it was unlikely that he would play in the series finale against the Athletics on Wednesday, which precedes an off day for the sliding Rangers. He instead planned to "have a good workout."

Young got hurt running out a grounder on Sept. 1, and had repeatedly said since then that this weekend's series against the Los Angeles Angels was his target date for returning.

Instead, with Texas facing its largest deficit for a playoff spot all season, Young tested himself by running the bases about four hours before Tuesday night's game.

The Rangers have lost four of five, all at home, to fall 5½ games behind wild-card leader Boston. They are still six behind AL West-leading Los Angeles, which lost to the Red Sox on Tuesday night.

"It's tough but there's not much I can do about it. We'll stick together as a team and try to battle our way out of it," Young said. "I knew I wasn't 100 percent, but I thought I could DH and play. It's not a big deal, nothing got worse, but I wasn't ready."

Young said before the game that he woke up Tuesday and wanted to play if he felt OK.

Manager Ron Washington said the Rangers were taking no chances.

"His leg got tired," Washington said. "He did a lot today and it just got tired. We didn't want to push it."

Young's return was expected to be a huge boost for the Rangers, who are trying to end a 10-year playoff drought.

"A day without him is enough," Marlon Byrd said. "To have him back, hopefully he goes out there and gives us the spark we need. ... We need all the help we can get, and we need wins. Michael in the lineup gives us a better chance."

Before sitting out 11 games, Young had never missed more than two consecutive games since becoming a full-time player in 2001. He played 155 games last season despite breaking a finger on each hand and straining his groin.

Young was still hitting .322 after his only at-bat. That was fifth in the American League, a spot higher than when he got hurt.

All-Star slugger Josh Hamilton, who missed his 11th consecutive game because of a pinched nerve in his back, hit off a tee and took some swings at some soft-tossed balls Tuesday. The Rangers aren't sure when he will return.

"We'll see how his back reacts to torque," Washington said. "It would be nice if he walked in here tomorrow and said he'd be ready to go."

The Rangers pushed struggling right-hander Kevin Millwood's next scheduled start back to early next week instead of this weekend against the Angels.

Millwood (10-10) is 2-5 with a 6.29 ERA his past 12 starts after allowing five runs over 3 2/3 innings Saturday against Seattle. Washington said Millwood, who is only 4 1/3 innings shy of the 180 he needs to guarantee a $12 million contract for next season, will work with pitching coach Mike Maddux to fix a mechanical flaw.

Millwood explained that he has been "too upright" on the mound.

Rookie right-hander Tommy Hunter (8-3) starts Friday against the Angels, before Scott Feldman (16-5) and rookie left-hander Derek Holland (7-11) take their turns.