Josh Hamilton’s first visit to Utah was a productive one.
Starting a three-game injury rehab assignment, Hamilton went 2-for-4 during Albuquerque’s 1-0 victory over the Bees on Thursday night at Smith’s Ballpark.
Hamilton, a five-time All-Star and 2010 MVP, had half of Salt Lake’s four hits. He singled up the middle in the first inning and drilled a ground-rule double to center in the sixth.
Hamilton also reached on an error in the third and grounded out to shortstop leading off in the ninth.
“I’ve never been to Utah,” Hamilton told reporters before the game. “It’s awesome with the snow-capped mountains in the back. It’s beautiful.”
Hamilton tore a ligament in his thumb on April 8, when the parent Los Angeles Angels were in Seattle.
“It’s not an issue,” Hamilton reported. “It hasn’t been for a couple of weeks now. No soreness. No problem swinging, throwing or anything like that.”
Hamilton was injured eight games into the Angels’ new season when he dived into first base in the seventh inning of a 5-3 loss to the Mariners.
“When you play, looking back and seeing the replay, I hit the ball in the hole but the shortstop made a great play,” Hamilton said. “He got around it instead of throwing off-balance and had more on the throw than I thought. It wasn’t as close as I thought it was going to be.”
Asked if he learned his lesson about sliding head-first, Hamilton laughed.
“At some point in my career, I’m sure I’ll probably do it again,” he said. “It’s just the way you play, man. You can tone it back a little bit, but you’re not the player you want to be if you completely take away things like that.”
Six weeks after undergoing surgery, Hamilton returned as the Bees’ designated hitter against Albuquerque.
“It’s been the smallest injury I’ve ever had and it’s kept me out the longest,” Hamilton said. “Three weeks after surgery, I felt like I was good enough to play. But this is what the doctor said [to do]. ... It needs time to heal.”
Hamilton is scheduled to play for the Bees against Fresno on Friday and Saturday nights.
He will return to Los Angeles on Sunday and accompany the Angels on a 10-game road trip to Seattle, Oakland and Houston.
“When you come down and do a stint like this, it’s kind of like a spring training thing,” Hamilton said. “... I want to do what I can to help the team win while I’m here, but the main focus is about feeling good and seeing pitches and going from there.”
Hamilton’s career has been interrupted by bouts with drugs and alcohol, but those problems helped him his handle his most recent absence.
“To be in position to have an injury is a blessing in itself,” he said.
Isotopes 1, Bees 0
O Albuquerque pitcher Jeff Bennett allows three hits over seven innings during a victory over Salt Lake.
• On an injury rehab assignment from the parent Los Angeles Angels, former MVP Josh Hamilton goes 2-for-4.