Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton will return to the lineup tonight for the AL West champions, but outfielder David Murphy will be held out until the playoffs.
Murphy has a strained left groin, although an MRI shows no tear. Manager Ron Washington said Murphy will be held out of the four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels that will wrap up the regular season, and he should be ready to play next week.
Hamilton’s been out since breaking two ribs Sept. 4 while crashing into an outfield wall while making a catch at Minnesota. He’s scheduled to play six innings in the outfield tonight. Plans are for him to be designated hitter Saturday and play the outfield again Sunday.
Hamilton leads the majors with a .361 average. He has 31 home runs and 97 RBI.
The Rangers open the playoffs Wednesday on the road against either Tampa Bay or the New York Yankees.
EARLY START FOR GAME 3 OF SERIES
Game 3 of the World Series is scheduled to begin before 4 p.m. on the West Coast, the earliest start since 1987.
Major League Baseball and Fox announced Thursday that the game on Saturday, Oct. 30, will have a first pitch at 3:57 p.m. PDT, an hour earlier than last year. The rest of the series will be the same as 2009, with 4:57 starts except for Game 4, which begins after the Sunday afternoon NFL games, about 5:20.
First pitches were moved up more than a half-hour last season amid evidence that longer games were losing viewers in the later innings.
Commissioner Bud Selig said the changes helped increase viewership last year, and he hoped that this year’s change will do the same.
The players and owners settled allegations of possible collusion against free agents after the 2008 and 2009 seasons. Among the changes under the deal are that players no longer have to file for free agency but automatically are set free. … Evan Longoria was held out of Tampa Bay’s lineup for a seventh straight game because of a strained left quadriceps. … Joe Mauer returned to Minnesota’s lineup for the first time since hurting his left knee Sept. 19. He batted third against Toronto. … A cap worn by Bill “Spaceman” Lee is on its way to the Hall of Fame. At 63 years old, the former Red Sox and Expos left-hander became the oldest person to pitch in and win a minor league game when the Brockton Rox beat the Worcester Tornadoes, 7-3, on Sept. 5. … The grievance by the players’ association to recover more than $3 million withheld by the Mets from injured reliever Francisco Rodriguez will start Oct. 18.