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Torii Hunter isn't second-guessing his move to No. 2 spot in lineup

ANGELS FYI

Angels' RBI leader, who also has hit third and fourth this season, has often struggled in the 11 games he's started in the second spot but says he's fine with wherever Manager Mike Scioscia puts him.

July 04, 2011|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Torii Hunter is congratulated by third base coach Dino Ebel after hitting a solo home run in the first inning against the Detroit Tigers on Monday. It was his first home run while hitting in the No. 2 spot this season.
Torii Hunter is congratulated by third base coach Dino Ebel after hitting… (Chrisine Cotter / Associated…)

Torii Hunter doesn't consider himself a prototypical cleanup hitter, but he has started 52 of 86 games there this season, mostly because of injuries to Kendrys Morales, who is out for the season, and Vernon Wells, who was out from May 10 to June 6.

The Angels right fielder also doesn't consider himself a prototypical No. 2 hitter, but that's where he has hit in the last 11 games he has started in American League parks, including Monday night against the Detroit Tigers.

"I just work here," Hunter said. "I play where I'm summoned."

The numbers suggest Hunter is not very comfortable in either spot.

He's batting .244 (50 for 205) with eight homers and 32 runs batted in as a cleanup hitter, and the Angels are 25-27 in those games.

Hunter is hitting .150 (six for 40) with one homer and three RBIs in the second spot, and the Angels are 6-5 in those games. The homer came Monday night, a solo shot to center in the first inning against Detroit left-hander Charlie Furbush.

He has hit .293 (17 for 58) with no homers and five RBIs in 16 starts in the third spot, and the Angels are 8-8 in those games.

Hunter is batting .240 (73 for 304) for the season, with nine homers, a team-leading 40 RBIs and 33 runs.

When Manager Mike Scioscia first moved him to the second spot on June 8, Hunter was in a three-for-26 slump, and the Angels were in a stretch in which they lost eight of nine games.

"It was like that saying, necessity is the mother invention," Scioscia said. "We were trying to get Torii into a comfort level and trying to find some continuity."

The Angels won 14 of their next 22 games after the initial switch, though Hunter hit third in six games in National League parks, going 11 for 25 in those games before suffering a bruised rib in a nasty June 22 collision with the right-field wall in Florida.

Hunter hasn't thrived in the second spot, but the grouping of Hunter, Bobby Abreu and Vernon Wells, with the consistent Howie Kendrick batting fifth, has worked.

"Everything is good when you're winning — there's no use picking it apart," Hunter said. "We've got to ride that bike until the wheels fall off."

Hunter said pitchers approach him the same way, regardless of where he's hitting.

"I'm still Torii — I get the same pitches," he said. "They know they can't throw the fastball down the middle."

Scioscia indicated Monday that when Maicer Izturis, who has been slowed by a sore right foot, is available on a more regular basis, he may go with Izturis and Erick Aybar in the first two spots and push the Hunter-Abreu-Wells trio down a notch.

"We're looking at some things offensively, but having Hunter, Abreu and Wells connected is something we're going to go with," Scioscia said. "Those guys need to produce, or we're not going to go anywhere."

Everywhere man

With his two-run homer in the seventh inning against the Dodgers on Sunday night, Russell Branyan has now homered for 10 teams, one shy of the major league record held by Matt Stairs.

"I guess that's good," said Branyan, the well-traveled 35-year-old slugger who signed with the Angels on May 26 after being released by Arizona. "It's probably better than hitting zero home runs for 10 different teams."

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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