Monday, July 4, 2011
Torii Hunter back in the lineup
By Pedro Moura
ANAHEIM -- When a first-inning fastball from Hiroki Kuroda hit Angel outfielder Torii Hunter on the top of the left hand in Friday's series opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Hunter immediately feared he'd broken a bone in his hand and would be out of commission until September.
Lucky for him, he only needed to miss two starts. He's back in the lineup Monday for the opener against the Detroit Tigers, hitting second and playing right field.
"I thought it was broken," Hunter, 35, said Monday as he prepared to take batting practice for the second time since the injury. "I thought I was gonna be gone six to eight weeks."
He underwent precautionary X-rays during the game Friday, which he exited after two innings. Those came up negative, as did the CT scan he took later that night. He rested Saturday, only his fourth missed game this season, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he'd be available as a defensive replacement in the later innings.
By Sunday, Scioscia said Hunter could come off the bench in any capacity, and he did sub in for Bobby Abreu in the eighth and play two innings in right field. His first-inning at-bat against Charlie Furbush Monday will be his first in-game swings since Friday night, though.
"I'm about 80 percent, but I just play, no matter what," Hunter said. "It's sore, my ribs are sore, but I gotta play.
"Hopefully it feels good."
The rib soreness dates back to his crash into the outfield well at Sun Life Stadium last month, which forced him to miss a three-game set with the Dodgers in L.A.
In discussing Hunter's more recent injury over the weekend, Scioscia brought up his thoughts on moving him around in the lineup, somewhere down from the second spot he's occupied recently. He's spent most of this season hitting cleanup but also has picked up 58 at-bats batting third and 37 hitting second.
He's hitting just .137 in the second spot and .244 cleanup but an impressive .293 in the third slot. But Scioscia decided to keep him second, based on his belief that the combination of Hunter, Bobby Abreu and Vernon Wells is a trio he wants to stick together in the lineup -- in that order, too, for right now at least.
"It's great to get Torii back in the lineup," Scioscia said Monday. "We're looking at some things on the offensive end, but I think with [Maicer Izturis] out of the lineup, hitting second is not a bad matchup for him to be in.
"We'll continue to evaluate things if we have to adjust down the road, but right now, it's something we want to give a little bit of a look to."
* Former Angel outfielder Tim Salmon participated in a fan-friendly home run derby with Jose Canseco after Sunday's game against the Dodgers, with the contest preceding a charity softball game benefiting ALS (Lou Gehrig Disease) sufferers.
Canseco hit eight homers to Salmon's four, winning the competition. Canseco's Dodgers also topped Salmon's Angels in the three-inning game, which a number of fans stayed around for at Angel Stadium.
Here are the lineups for tonight's 6:05 p.m. game, with the Angels' Joel Pineiro opposing Furbush on the mound: