Hamilton returns to Arlington in Rangers' home opener

Josh Hamilton returns to Arlington on Friday when the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim open a three-game set against the Texas Rangers in the home opener at Rangers Ballpark.

Of course, Hamilton spent the past five years with the Rangers and won an MVP for them in 2010. However, the five-time All-Star left as a free agent this winter to join the division rival Angels, signing a 5-year, $125 million deal.

"I think it'll be mixed," Hamilton said of the reaction he expects from Rangers fans. "I don't know if I can say there will be more claps than boos, or more boos than claps. It's something I'm not going to think about or stress about. When it happens, it happens."

Texas didn't miss its former slugger much through the first three games against Houston, as the Rangers received some tremendous pitching over the final two contests. Yu Darvish nearly threw a perfect game on Tuesday, then Alexi Ogando struck out 10 over 6 1/3 scoreless innings in Texas' 4-0 win over the Astros in Wednesday's rubber match.

"He was outstanding," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of his starter. "He did exactly what we needed him to do."

Washington is hoping lefty Derek Holland can continue that run on Friday. Holland, though, was inconsistent last season and ended the year just 12-7 with a 4.67 ERA.

Holland, who had won 16 games in 2011, isn't concerned about having to face his former teammate in Hamilton.

"I'll let (others) hype him up," said Holland. "He was a great teammate and did a lot of great things. He's an unbelievable athlete, but now he's on the other side. I've got to go out and execute and take care of business."

Holland is 7-5 with a 5.58 ERA in 16 appearances (13 starts) against Los Angeles, having surrendered 101 hits in 90 1/3 frames.

"It doesn't matter. We've faced good lineups before," Holland said. "It comes down to making pitches and keeping the defense on their toes. The offense will do its part if I do my part. But there's no doubt it's a great lineup."

Hamilton's new team wasn't as fortunate as his former squad, as the Angels dropped two of three to the Cincinnati Reds, including a 5-4 loss on Thursday. Hamilton struck out to end the finale with the tying run on second.

In fact, the Angels whiffed 36 times against the Reds, breaking the previous club record of 35 for a three-game set.

"It wasn't like guys were going there 1-2-3," said Hamilton, who was 1-for-12 with six strikeouts and two walks in the series. "Guys were going deep in counts and making pitchers throw pitches. Their pitchers did a good job, for the most part."

Hoping to get the Halos untracked on Friday will be new lefty Jason Vargas, who was acquired by the Angels this offseason after spending the last four years with the Seattle Mariners. Vargas was 14-11 last season with a 3.85 ERA.

Vargas struggled this spring, going 1-2 with a 7.54 ERA, yielding 19 earned runs on 30 hits in 22 2/3 innings of six starts.

"I feel ready," Vargas said. "It would've been nice to have a couple more good games, but I felt like I threw the ball well at times. I'm looking forward to getting out there and getting the feel of that first game."

Los Angeles was 10-9 against the Rangers last season.

Texas has won 10 of its 19 home openers at Rangers Ballpark. Overall, though, the Rangers are 22-10 in home openers.