LA Angels: Has Torii Hunter broken out of early season slump?

By dougmead

When talking with and listening to Los Angeles Angels right fielder Torii Hunter, you quickly get a sense that he is an immensely proud man who takes his job very seriously. While he seemingly always has a smile on his face and loves to have fun, Hunter is nonetheless intense when it comes to playing the game of baseball.

Los Angeles Angels’ Torii Hunter (48) gets ready to bat against the Atlanta Braves at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California on May 22, 2011. The Angels won 4-1. UPI/Lori Shepler.

When the 2011 season started, Hunter came out of the gates fairly quickly, hitting .317 with two home runs and seven runs batted in through April 10. However, the rest of the month was pretty much a disaster, with his average dipping all the way to .196 by April 25.

During his career, Hunter has never been considered a slow starter. His career average in April is .268 with 50 home runs, the most of any month in his career. So the slow start was uncharacteristic. But Hunter made no excuses, chalking it up to not doing his job when he needed to.

“Pressure belongs in pipes, I was always told that when I was younger,” Hunter said before last Friday’s game with the Atlanta Braves. “I try to keep pressure out of my head, and go out there and use my God-given ability, and if I believe in my ability and know that I can get it done, I think that helps me out more than pressure.

“Just know that you’re going to fail in this game. Three out of 10, you’re a hero. Try doing that at your job, see how long you’ll be there. Try doing that in school and see what happens. You’ll get an F.

“But in baseball, it’s about success, so it lets you know it’s a failing game. If you can’t accept failure, you can’t play this game.”

Hunter clearly understands how the game works, and knows that oftentimes it will fall on his shoulders if the team is slumping and him along with it.

“I definitely feel like I’m going to get better, I’m feeling like my younger guys are going to get better, and us as a whole, as a team, between pitching and executing and playing good defense, I think it’s all going to get better, and everything will start clicking. I think we’ll be fine.”

Hunter’s words have certainly proven prophetic, at least in the last five days or so. With Monday night’s win over the Oakland Athletics, the Angels have won three of their last four games, and Hunter himself has driven in six runs in that span, taking over team lead in RBIs.

In the eighth inning of Monday night’s game, Hunter doubled in the gap in right center, scoring Bobby Abreu with the go-ahead run. The previous day, Hunter blasted a two-run home run off Atlanta Braves starter Derek Lowe, breaking a home run drought of 28 games and proving to be the game-winner as well.

The Angels need Hunter and his offense to heat up in order to keep pace in the AL West. Judging from the last several days, Hunter’s dry spell appears to be a thing of the past.

All quotes in this article were acquired via first-hand reporting on site at Angels Stadium.



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