Josh Hamilton returned to the Texas Rangers lineup on Monday night after an optometrist diagnosed the vision problem that caused him to miss the past five games.
His affliction? Ocular keratitis, which dried out Hamilton's corneas and forced him to leave a game last Tuesday night with what he initially believed to be a sinus infection. Blurred vision and balance problems followed and caused Hamilton to miss the entire weekend series against the Seattle Mariners.
Doctors say high caffeine consumption can cause ocular keratitis. That might sound strange, but Hamilton wouldn't be the first baseball player to be told to cut back. Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann struggled with a mysterious and extended vision problem before decreasing his amount of caffeine consumption in 2010. Johnny Damon also cut caffeine while experiencing similar symptoms with the New York Yankees in 2009.
''Drinking caffeine, coffee in the morning, coffee midday, Energy drink before the game, chocolate after the game. All these things were compounding and making it worse and worse,'' Hamilton said
Hamilton returns just in time as the Rangers welcome Oakland to Arlington for a four-game set that will help decide whether Texas can win its third straight AL West title. The Rangers hold a four-game lead on the A's and still have a three-game series in Oakland remaining on the schedule.
Hamilton is also tied with Miguel Cabrera for the AL lead in homers with 42 and could ruin the Detroit third baseman's quest for baseball's first Triple Crown since 1967.
[10 Degrees: Baseball's dirty dozen remain in hunt for October]
For those of you keeping score at home, this is the second time this season that a legal substance has been blamed for Hamilton operating at less than peak performance. The 2010 AL MVP publicly expressed a disappointment in himself back in August for his inability to kick a chewing tobacco habit. Now it's Red Bull and other energy drinks that are doing the opposite of giving him wings.
Perhaps Texas should look into making ginger ale a year-round thing in the clubhouse?
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