Tag:Torii Hunter
Posted on: September 10, 2008 8:39 pm

Angels clinch, K-Rod zeroes in on Thigpen

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Baseball's first clincher of the summer was an unusual one: The Los Angeles Angels finished their part of it by polishing off the New York Yankees 4-2 Wednesday. Then they retired to their clubhouse to watch the Texas-Seattle game.

For a team clinching so early, the Los Angeles Angels sure had to wait around awhile.

After closer Francisco Rodriguez, appropriately, fanned Hideki Matsui for the game's final out, some 72 minutes later, Seattle outlasted Texas 8-7 and the Angels popped the corks on their fourth AL West title in the past five seasons.

It's the earliest clinch ever in the AL West, and the delayed reaction didn't seem to deflate the instant gratification.

Several hundred eager fans had stayed to watch the Texas-Seattle conclusion on the scoreboard, and moments after it ended, the Angels immediately sprinted out of their clubhouse and onto the field to begin the celebration.

The highlight? Reliever Jose Arredondo somehow commandeering the grounds crew's infield garden hose and drenching teammates before spraying it into the stands to toast the fans. The Anaheim Fire Dept. would have been proud.

"Did you see the water hose, spraying everybody?" outfielder Torii Hunter exclaimed. "That's impressive!"

"It was perfect, man," hitting coach Mickey Hatcher said, agreeing Arredondo gets an 'A' for creativity. "He got some of the fans, too. They loved it!"

Owner Arte Moreno spoke of wanting a "big finish" to gain October home-field advantage -- the Angels currently own baseball's best record and, as such, would have home-field advantage throughout the American League playoffs -- and spoke of needing 11 wins in October to earn World Series rings.

He, like many around the club, thinks this might be the Angels' deepest playoff team.

"Last year we were banged up," he said. "The last few years, we ... didn't have the depth. This year, everybody was saying we have too many outfielders, too many pitchers. But it's such a long season.

"It's a team deal. I'd like to think we're getting close."

While the waiting around for official clinching word was unusual, what wasn't was this: The Angels were steered to the dock Wednesday by Rodriguez, who continued zeroing in on Bobby Thigpen's all-time saves record by scooping up his 56th of the season.

K-Rod, who will become one of the hottest free agents on the market this winter, will tie Thigpen's record 57 with his next save and should easily break the record by season's end. He's currently on pace for 62.

An Angels' official said that Thigpen isn't expected to be on hand when his record falls, but the club has been in contact with him through the Chicago White Sox and some sort of gesture is expected.

"It's almost magical the way things have fallen into place," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's as consistent as anybody I've seen. He turns the page better than anybody I've been around."

While it finally was a relief to the Angels to have wrapped up the division despite the large lead, it will be a similar feeling for Rodriguez when he finally passes Thigpen.

"I feel like I have 10,000 pounds on my shoulders," he said in Chicago last weekend. "I would like to get it over. ... That would be awesome. To break the record and clinch, take those 10,000 pounds off my shoulder on the same day -- that would be nice."

The Angels beat him to one of those finish lines.

Now, the team that leads the majors in both number of games decided by two runs or fewer (81) and number of victories in those games (54), can enjoy the regular-season conclusion of K-Rod's ride.

"It's a huge accomplishment," says starter John Lackey, who broke in with Rodriguez in the minors and says he once taught the Venezuelan some English words ("not good ones, either.") "It says a great deal about his ability.

"The guy has been fearless since he's been in the league. Whether the leadoff guy gets on or he goes 1-2-3, he gets it done. Maybe he's lost a little velocity over the years, but he still gets it done."

And if the Angels have their way, they'll again provide the World Series stage where Rodriguez first rocketed to national prominence, in 2002 against San Francisco.

"He means a lot to us," Scioscia says. "And, hopefully, he will mean even more."

Posted on: September 10, 2008 3:02 pm

Pudge, Hunter suspensions: Ludacris

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- So Pudge Rodriguez and Torii Hunter each got whacked two games, plus fined, by discipline czar Bob Watson.

On top of the fact that the duo actually settled their differences like mature men and this might have been the biggest discipline overreaction since Sister Noelita randomly nailed us for ridiculous things back in fifth grade, it also probably ranks as one of the more meaningless suspensions of two marquee players in major-league history.

Hunter's Angels are about to set a record for the earliest clinching ever in the AL West.

Rodriguez's Yankees are in fourth place and headed for their first October at home since 1993.

No wonder neither player is appealing, each deciding to simply take his scolding and get it over with.

"It's the first time I started a fight," Rodriguez said. "It happened. It was just two players who love to play this game. It happens."

"I figured it would be a game (suspension)," Hunter said. "I didn't expect two. I thought about appealing, but why? You've gotta accept it. Do the crime, you've got to do the time."

Hunter actually did file an appeal, briefly. But he quickly changed his mind following a morning conversation with Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who preferred Hunter simply take the suspension now.

Part of the reason is because Hunter tweaked his quadriceps the other night, and he may as well rest now and let it heal.

"In the playoffs last year, they had all these guys hurt," Hunter said, referring to a rash of injuries that significantly crippled the Angels against Boston in last year's first-round. "That's what I heard. That's what I read.

"I don't want to be that guy."

The only inconvenient thing for Hunter, as it turns out, is that he and rapper Ludacris were going to debut a new song, if only for a few seconds, as Hunter's walk-up music when he bats. The two joined forces early this year for an online contest -- at www.wemix.com -- in which kids were encouraged to write a sports-related song. The contest winner would get Ludacris' help in mixing it in the studio.

Or, as Hunter said, "Ludi-fy it."

It's part of Hunter's efforts to reach out to kids, keep them out of trouble and get them into baseball.

"Ludacris is a good way to get kids interested in playing the game of baseball," Hunter said.

The song is called Love of the Game. Hunter says he likes it so much it could be the "theme music" to baseball, the NFL, the NBA, anything.

He thinks the song will debut Friday now, with downloads available at the web site any day.

Posted on: September 9, 2008 9:32 pm

Pudge Rodriguez out, Angels need a secretary

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- One day after his dustup with Torii Hunter, Yankees catcher Pudge Rodriguez was not in the lineup for Tuesday night's game with the Los Angeles Angels.

New York manager Joe Girardi said something about "whiplash", and Rodriguez did spend some time in the trainer's room, but the catcher said it was nothing serious.

"I'm doing fine," Rodriguez said. "I'm doing good."

There was no word of suspensions. Maybe that'll come -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia said nobody from the league had called him with questions -- but it shouldn't.

Pudge elbowed Hunter, Hunter shoved back, there was an open-handed slap (nobody threw any punches) ... and then, following the ejections, the two met in a tunnel below Angel Stadium, apologized to each other and then did one of those handshake-hugs.

And that was before each was quoted offering apologies in the morning newspapers.

Rodriguez and Hunter settled it all on their own, like a couple of mature men.

Shouldn't baseball applaud that as a model for how others who lose their temper should behave?

"I'm not anticipating any suspensions," Scioscia said. "You never know what the league is going to do, but it was pretty benign.

"Those two guys are two classy guys. They play the game hard. They play to win. It was an unfortunate incident, but it really was rather mild."

The apology occurred when Rodriguez sent an envoy to the Angels' clubhouse to apologize to Hunter. At that point, Hunter, wanting to talk with Pudge himself, told the guy to ask Pudge to come out of the clubhouse and into the tunnel.

The conversation went from there.

"Pudge and I have had mutual respect for all these years," Hunter said. "It's like any pickup game at the gym. It can be your brother who fouls you as you're going for a layup. You might push your brother or friend, like, 'Hey, what are you doing?!'

"It was kind of like that."

It did make for a semi-light-hearted moment shortly after the ejections.

As the game was resuming, with emotions still overflowing and the Los Angeles dugout not quite settled down, Angels media relations director Larry Babcock phoned downstairs from the press box to inquire whether there were any ejections besides Hunter and Rodriguez so he could relay the information along to the broadcasters and other media.

The telephone in the dugout rang and rang. Finally, because nobody else was answering, outfielder Garret Anderson picked up. After speaking briefly with Babcock, Anderson hollered to his manager -- "Hey, Mike, it's for you!" -- before Babcock could ask for bench coach Ron Roenicke.

As you might expect, any manager -- Scioscia included -- doesn't really take kindly to being disturbed in the middle of a game. Which is why Babcock was seeking Roenicke.

The conversation went something like this:

"Hey Mike, I'm just double-checking whether there were any other ejections," Babcock asked.

"Of course there were ejections," Scioscia snapped.

"No, I know Hunter and Rodriguez were ejected. I just need to know whether there were any others. ..."

Um, that would be a no. And now, back to live action. ...


Posted on: April 4, 2008 11:19 pm

Edmonds to return Saturday, and other nuggets

The season is only a few days old, but San Diego already is expecting a reinforcement in time for Saturday afternoon's game with Los Angeles. Center fielder Jim Edmonds, following a brief, two-game injury rehabilitation stint at Class A Lake Elsinore, will be activated and manager Bud Black hinted that he will be in the lineup.

Edmonds, who batted only .252 with 12 homers, 53 RBI and a career-low .325 on-base percentage last year in St. Louis, has been nursing a strained calf since early this spring. The Padres sent Edmonds to Lake Elsinore, about a two-hour drive north of San Diego, essentially for a two-game dress rehearsal. They wanted him to get some at-bats, run the bases and field in game conditions before turning him loose in Petco Park.

How Edmonds' early leg problems will play out undoubtedly will be one of the keys to San Diego's season. He's 38, and he's got a lot of ground to cover in one of the league's largest outfields.

Odd man out to make room for Edmonds? Outfielder Jody Gerut is expected to be optioned to Triple-A Portland. The other candidate would be Paul McAnulty, but he was hitting .455 entering Friday night's game and he's out of options. Plus, he's played his way into the Padres plans. For now, at least.

-- Strange to think about now, but there was a time this spring when new Los Angeles Angels outfielder Torii Hunter was concerned about starting the season in Minnesota. He really was afraid he was going to be the target of boos and catcalls after leaving the Twins as a free agent. Instead, he was exhausted leaving Minnesota for the Angels' home opener Friday night because of all of the attention he received.

The Twins presenting him with his Gold Glove award on the field before the second game of the series was a class move, as were the several standing ovations Hunter received. It hasn't always been that way in the Metrodome for Twins who have left. Let's just say Minnesotans are world class at distinguishing between the phony and the real (well, other than when they elected Jesse Ventura as governor).

-- Don't pay too much attention to that fancy save Miguel Batista picked up for Seattle in closer J.J. Putz's absence the other day. Not to disrespect something the Mariners really needed after losing Putz to the 15-day disabled list, but it essentially was like throwing on the side in between starts for Batista.

Because he will not be removed from the rotation: He's still on schedule to start Saturday's game against Baltimore. Batista closed for Toronto in 2005,  but while Putz recovers from a rib cage strain, right-handers Mark Lowe and Sean Green and lefty Eric O'Flaherty will share the eighth and ninth innings.

-- Did you see Alfonso Soriano flip back to second base in the ninth inning Friday against Houston? For one inning, and it figured: First ball in play is a grounder to Soriano, who hadn't played second in two years. He fielded it cleanly, after which he flashed a wide grin. He wound up with two assists in the inning -- two of the three Astros to bat grounded to him.

-- Was going to be in Anaheim for the Angels' home opener Friday night against Texas, but Kenny G was going to play the national anthem and Kenny G is just something I can't stomach. See you soon, Angels.

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