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Devils Rays give Hamilton leave of absence

May 13, 2003 at 12:55 PM   |   Comments

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., May 13 (UPI) -- Tampa Bay Devil Rays prospect Josh Hamilton has been granted a personal leave for the rest of the season.

Hamilton, who has gone from top pick to top bust, has been playing at Double-A Orlando of the Southern League. He was granted the leave just 10 days after he returned from a mysterious six-week absence.

The Devil Rays did not give a reason for his latest departure, saying only, "The purpose of the leave is to provide Josh an opportunity to address certain private, non-baseball matters."

Linda Hamilton, Josh's mother, told the St. Petersburg Times that her son is "just taking some personal time, like everyone else. He's fine. It's just some personal time."

Hamilton, who turns 22 on May 21, has yet to play this season. He was the No. 1 pick in the 1999 draft out of Athens Drive High School in Raleigh, N.C. Injuries have prevented him from playing more than 96 games in a season.

The 2003 season began with an unexplained absence. Then, upon returning to baseball on May 3, Hamilton said his absence was not related to drug, alcohol, or legal issues, and that he received counseling for a form of depression caused by family issues and professional pressures.

His biggest problem has been injuries. He missed more than 230 games over his first four professional seasons, thanks to shoulder, back, rib cage, elbow, and quadriceps problems.

Through 251 minor league games between Rookie ball and Double-A, Hamilton is hitting .295 with 33 home runs, 166 RBI, and 44 stolen bases.

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