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Hunter returns and is at peace

August 05, 2008|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

Torii Hunter left in grief Friday to bury his 80-year-old grandmother, but returned to the Angels at peace on Monday after a two-game absence.

"I kind of understand now. She's in a better place," he said, talking softly as he sat at his locker stall before Monday's game at Angel Stadium against the Baltimore Orioles. "She was sick for five years and I hated to see her suffer."

A heart attack and several strokes had left Edna Cobbs with a brain aneurysm. She died July 25.

"She was like a baby," Hunter said. "She would drift in and out. There were times when she didn't even know us. It was tough."

Coming back to the team was comforting for Hunter.

"Baseball is my safe haven," he said. "This team is like another family for me."

Back in the game

A year ago, Shane Loux, called up by the Angels on Monday, was out of baseball. Forever, he figured.

A career minor leaguer, the right-handed pitcher had a total of 14 big league appearances, all with the Detroit Tigers, to show for a decade of professional baseball.

Released by the Seattle Mariners in the spring of 2007, Loux, then 27, hoped he wasn't done.

"I called in all my favors," he said. "I figured there had to be room for someone like me somewhere."

There wasn't.

Loux grudgingly decided to go back to school. "But I kept putting it off," he said.

Back home in Arizona, he coached high school baseball and youth teams, and pitched three innings a game in a beer league.

Working one day with a pitching prospect at an indoor facility in Gilbert, Loux was about to conclude the session when the prospect asked Loux whether he wanted to switch places and throw a few pitches of his own from the mound.

This is the part where, if you saw it in a movie, you would chuckle at the absurdity of the script.

As Loux fired a pitch, Rich Barker, who ran the facility, did a double take as he walked by. Barker didn't need a speed gun to know that he had just seen something special.

"Do that again," Barker said.

Loux did it again and again.

Barker asked whether he could refer Loux to an Angels scout, and just like that, Loux, who had a minor league career mark of 71-75 and a 4.53 earned-run average at the time, was back in professional ball.

He was 12-6 -- the most wins in the Pacific Coast League this season -- with a 3.98 ERA for the Angels' triple-A team in Salt Lake City.

"This couldn't be better," Loux said, "considering the situation I was in."

Or more unlikely.

To make room for Loux, the Angels optioned right-handed reliever Darren O'Day (0-1, 4.34 ERA in 27 appearances this season) to Salt Lake.

Short hops

Shortstop Maicer Izturis, who has been out since suffering a sprained left thumb Friday, had an MRI exam Monday that revealed nothing more serious. Manager Mike Scioscia said Izturis was day to day. . . . Catcher Mike Napoli, on the disabled list since July 7 because of an irritated right shoulder, was two for two with a home run and three runs batted in Sunday in the third game of a rehab assignment with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga.


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