Mike Scioscia backs Torii Hunter
ANAHEIM -- For nine consecutive seasons (2001-09), Torii Hunter was an automatic choice as the American League's Gold Glove winner in center field.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia thinks it's about time he won one as a right fielder.
That Scioscia is very rarely so blunt in campaigning for any of his players to win an individual award made his praise for Hunter stand out even more.
When asked Wednesday whether center fielder Mike Trout should be the AL MVP, Scioscia was decidedly more reserved.
"I think there's a lot of variables that go into what makes up an MVP," Scioscia said. "For the guys that are voting, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some guys are going to put more weight on how a team finishes and some guys are going to put more weight on pure stats and some guys are going to have a combination of both."
He was definitive in his comments about Hunter, however.
"He should win a Gold Glove," Scioscia said. "There's no right fielder that's played at his level, I know that."
Hunter's .982 fielding percentage entering Thursday is comparable to the top right fielder's in the AL. He ranks third with 11 outfield assists. Francoeur has committed just one error and leads the league with a .996 fielding percentage and 18 outfield assists. Reddick is second with 13 outfield assists and is fifth in fielding percentage (.985).
For Scioscia, however, it's about more than statistics.
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"To see what Torii's brought in terms of range and what he's done stopping the first-and-third, there aren't many guys better," Scioscia said. "There aren't many guys in my time in baseball that are better than what Torii does."
The 37-year-old Hunter is having one of his finest seasons as an Angel in this, the last year of a five-year contract. Batting second behind Trout, he entered Thursday hitting .308 with 15 home runs, 80 RBIs and 150 hits. He's turned it on of late, batting .354 with 18 RBIs in August and .333 with 15 RBIs in 17 games in September.
"Right now Torii is playing the best baseball he's played since he signed with us," Scioscia said. "It's been fun to watch. I think hitting out of that No. 2 hole has really rejuvenated him. He's really more of a hitter with power (than a power hitter). When he was hitting in the third, fourth, fifth spots, I know he was up there trying to break games open. In the No. 2 spot he's back to his roots. Using the whole field, his on-base percentage has been terrific, situational hitting, he's playing great."
The one subject Scioscia didn't have a lot to say about was what comes after this season. Hunter will be a free agent, and while he's stated publicly he'd love to stay in Anaheim -- even if it means taking less than what he could command on the open market -- the Angels might not have room for him with talented young outfielder Peter Bourjos and the well-paid Vernon Wells still under contract.
"Let's not get there. We're here now," Scioscia said, quickly after a reporter asked about Hunter's impending free agency. "We've got 12 games left. I think everyone know's Torii's presence and that it's important in these last couple weeks. Free agency is a complicated thing. We'll see where that leads."
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