Hunter hitting after lineup change

Hunter hitting after lineup change

Published Jun. 14, 2012 3:03 p.m. ET

Torii Hunter needs his
quiet time, and really, who can blame him? He has so much on his mind, so much
to worry about, but there’s also baseball.


Several hours before the
first pitch, Hunter retreats to a solitary place, somewhere far from the Angels
clubhouse, where he can be alone, read, meditate a bit – anything to clear his mind
before he begins his pregame routine.


Hunter returned to the
Angels on May 28 after missing two weeks to be with his family after his
17-year-old son Darius was arrested on a sexual assault charge in Texas. But he
carries the burden of that every day.


“That’s my son,” he
said. “Think if you had a son going through something like that and you knew
the truth. It’s tough. But at the same time you’ve still got to work. You’ve
got to provide and do what you’ve got to do.”


Attorneys representing
Darius Hunter have said they have recorded evidence of the alleged victim
recanting her testimony, but Torii Hunter said the case is still under
investigation. There’s no news to report.


So Hunter comes to the
ballpark every day and somehow puts aside his worries so he can focus on the
game. He smiles, he laughs, he jokes with his teammates – typical Torii Hunter
– and they do the same for him.


It’s easier to smile
because the Angels are winning and Hunter is flourishing since he was put in
the No. 2 spot in the batting order last week. He’s not a prototypical second
hitter, but he’s batting .444 (12 for 27) since the move, with eight runs
scored in six games. The Angels are 5-1 in that span.


There are no guarantees
Hunter will remain there, but there are also no plans to move him down in the
order to his usual fifth or sixth spot any time soon.


“We’re just kind of
riding the bike until the wheels fall off,” he said. “But while we’re in it, we
might as well enjoy it and go from there.”


This isn’t a new spot
for Hunter. He batted second in 30 games last season but hit just .198 behind
leadoff hitters Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis and ahead of Bobby Abreu. This
season, he’s got rookie Mike Trout in front of him and Albert Pujols behind him.


“Torii did it a little
bit last year, but the surrounding parts aren’t exactly what they are now,”
manager Mike Scioscia said. “When you have guys like Albert and Mike Trout and
you’re hitting between them, that’s a nice spot to be in. It doesn’t make as
much sense as it’s turned out to be, but Torii’s multi-dimensional. He gives
you a presence in the No. 2 hole.”


Although Scioscia would
prefer to have Hunter in a spot where he can drive in runs, Trout’s .401
on-base average and team-leading 35 runs scored are giving Hunter plenty of
chances for RBIs.


“Pitchers are trying to
get after me early, not thinking about walking me because they don’t want to
get to Albert,” Hunter said. “And they’re really focused on Trout on the bases,
so I’m getting a lot more fastballs. Even the breaking pitches aren’t in the
dirt. They’re up. Hitting in the second spot isn’t so bad. I kind of like it.”


He’ll be there Friday
night when the Angels open a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks
at Angel Stadium. They also play the San Francisco Giants and Dodgers three
times each to complete interleague play.


“It’s definitely
working,” Scioscia said. “We’re going to ride it out as long as it’s


It’s good for the Angels
and good for Hunter, who seems renewed and energetic since he returned to the
team. But he’s not all the way back, and that’s understandable.


“The old Torii is not
going to be back until everything is over with,” he said about the case
involving his son. “But I’m just me. I have fun, I smile, I do what I have to
do, no matter what’s going on around me.”