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Pirates notebook: Hurdle overjoyed for Rangers' Hamilton

AP - Texas Rangers' Josh Hamilton watches his two-run home run in the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles in Baltimore, Tuesday, May 8, 2012. Texas won 10-3. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Texas Rangers' Josh Hamilton watches his two-run home run in the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles in Baltimore, Tuesday, May 8, 2012. Texas won 10-3. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
AP - The Rangers' Josh Hamilton hits a two-run home run in the eighth inning against the Orioles in Baltimore on Tuesday, May 8, 2012. (AP)
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>The Rangers' Josh Hamilton hits a two-run home run in the eighth inning against the Orioles in Baltimore on Tuesday, May 8, 2012. (AP)
AP - Texas Rangers' Josh Hamilton, right, high-fives third base coach Dave Anderson as he rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run in the first inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles in Baltimore, Tuesday, May 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Texas Rangers' Josh Hamilton, right, high-fives third base coach Dave Anderson as he rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run in the first inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles in Baltimore, Tuesday, May 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Thursday, May 10, 2012, 12:30 a.m.
 

Bucs' Hurdle happy for Rangers star Hamilton

Manager Clint Hurdle sent Josh Hamilton a text message, congratulating the Texas Rangers slugger on his four-homer game Tuesday. “I told him I thought they outlawed using a tee in the American League,” Hurdle said Wednesday.

Hurdle was the Rangers' hitting coach in 2010, when Hamilton clubbed 32 homers and was named the AL MVP. But the start of that season was rough for Hamilton, who turned to Hurdle for advice. Hurdle told Hamilton to take the toe tap out of his swing. “It's one of the few times I've challenged a player to change something so dramatically during a season,” Hurdle said.

The first night without the tap, Hamilton went hitless in his first three at-bats and stranded runners on base. Frustrated, Hamilton said he'd give the new swing one more try, and if he didn't get results, he'd put the toe tap back in. “He hit a double off the wall,” Hurdle said.

Ever since, Hamilton has batted without the tap. “He's so physically strong and gifted that when he gets on a streak, it changes games dramatically,” Hurdle said. “It was an honor to work with him for one season. He did make my job easier.”

• Rod Barajas has three walkoff homers in his career, and all three were hit in May. He hopes the two-run shot he hit Tuesday will snap his batting funk. “I've tried wearing different clothes, different watches, using different stalls in the bathroom,” Barajas said. “When I wash my hands, I try to find the right sink that has all the hits in it. I lost track on how many different ones I've tried.” In the end, it came down to Barajas dusting off some batting cage routines from earlier in his career. “I started doing some drills that I haven't done for a while,” he said. “There's a feeling that just hits you. ‘Oh, yeah. This is what I used to do. This is what I used to feel.' When you have those feelings, you try to make sure you remember it.”

• Closer Joel Hanrahan got his first blown save Tuesday by allowing Adam LaRoche's go-ahead homer in the ninth inning. Hanrahan was taken out of the game with two outs after throwing 18 pitches. “There was no need to keep him in there at that point,” Hurdle said.

• Reliever Tony Watson entered Tuesday's game with two outs in the ninth and struck out Roger Bernadina on five pitches. When Barajas homered in the bottom half, Watson got the win — the maximum payout for a brief outing. “Just being efficient with my pitches,” he said.

— Rob Biertempfel

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