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He’s Back

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.–Nearly six weeks after he mysteriously left minor league spring training, once-promising Devil Rays prospect Josh Hamilton was set to resume his career with Double-A Orlando.

Hamilton, 21, was expected to work out with the team for a week or so and then start playing.

This is a pivotal season for Hamilton, the first overall pick in the 1999 draft. He is an immensely talented outfielder who was rated the No. 1 prospect in the game prior to the 2001 season and has been projected to play alongside Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli in the Rays vaunted "outfield of the future."

But Hamilton has been hampered by a string of injuries–right knee in 2000; back in 2001; left shoulder, back and elbow in 2002–and has never played more than 96 games in a season.

Hamilton came to spring training healthy this season and made a quick impression on manager Lou Piniella, but raised concern among team officials when he was late to workouts twice within a week.

When the Rays sent him to minor league camp in early March, he told Piniella he’d be back soon, but missed several days of workouts. The following week, the team announced he had left camp "due to personal reasons." That was the last comment until Hamilton issued a statement more than a month later, saying he needed time and assistance "to address some personal issues and problems" and now had "a better support system in place to move forward" with his career.

Agent Casey Close said Hamilton is intent on being "100 percent physically and mentally.

"He’s working hard to get back to that level to allow himself the chance to fulfill his promise," Close said. "He’s taken the necessary steps to further his career; hopefully he’ll be able to do so."

Cool Rays

• The Rays kept one of the righthanders they designated for assignment off the Triple-A Durham roster, Delvin James, but lost Luis de los Santos, who refused an outright assignment.

• By the third week of the season, 15 players had made their Devil Rays debut.

• Previous organization report: Dewon Brazelton

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