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Thursday, April 21, 2011
Did Torii Hunter get back in the groove?

By Mark Saxon

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Torii Hunter nearly broke Dino Ebel’s hand.

He was rounding third base after hitting the two-run home run off Josh Beckett that tied Thursday night’s game against the Boston Red Sox in the seventh inning. Hunter exchanged a low-five with the Angels’ third-base coach and nearly sent Ebel into a pirouette with the force of the blow.

“That felt pretty good,” Hunter said.

There was a lot of emphasis, and probably a little released rage, in the gesture. Hunter had been scuffling through the worst slump of his career, just two hits in his previous 38 at-bats, before that blast. As Angels manager Mike Scioscia put it before the game, Hunter’s swing was getting a little too “big.”

That’s another way of saying he was trying to hit every pitch he saw into an adjoining county.

Hunter showed up early Thursday afternoon to hit off a tee, then took early batting practice on the field – at one point flinging his bat all the way to third base in frustration – then hit off a tee again and then watched video of his swing.

It was an entire afternoon of self-analysis and Hunter thinks it might pay off.

“I’m starting to figure some things out,” he said.

The Angels’ offense was virtually nonexistent Thursday, so getting their cleanup hitter back on board is a high priority for the Angels as they try to finally build some offensive chemistry. Perhaps that one at-bat, falling behind and then hitting a 3-and-2 pitch over the center-field wall against a good pitcher will do it.

“Torii’s as good as there is at turning the page and getting into the next at-bat,” Scioscia said. “That’s what it takes to be in that elite group of players and he has the ability to do that. Whether he’s 10-for-20 or 0-for-20 that 21st at-bat has a purpose.”