Broken ribcage bones leave Hamilton's return uncertain

DALLAS (Reuters) - Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton suffered broken bones in his ribcage when he slammed into the centerfield wall earlier this month and a timeframe for his return to the line-up was unclear, the team said.

Hamilton, the Major League's leading hitter with a .361 average, learned on Tuesday he had small fractures in two bones on the right side of his ribcage, the Rangers reported on their website (http://texas.rangers.mlb.com).

The All-Star outfielder said he hoped treatment would allow him to play four or five games at the end of the regular season.

"This close to the playoffs, I'll be smart if I can get back in there," he said.

Hamilton has not played since hitting the centerfield wall while making a catch in a September 4 game at Minnesota.

He received anti-inflammatory and pain injections on Tuesday after learning about the fractures.

"I already feel better," Hamilton said. "We'll know for sure in the next few days if this will help. The biggest thing is pain management."

He said the only thing that would make it worse would be to hit an outfield wall in the same spot in his ribcage.

"Swinging is not going to make it worse, throwing is not going to make it worse and running isn't going to make it worse," he said.

"I have to be optimistic," he added. "If not, I'm just moping around, dragging around, not doing any good for my team mates."

First-place Texas has a seven-game lead over Oakland in the American League West.

(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina; Editing by Steve Ginsburg)