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Angels' Torii Hunter has renewed energy

The veteran outfielder spoke of retirement several times in 2011, but a strong finish last season and the team's off-season acquisitions have invigorated Hunter.

February 26, 2012|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Angels outfielder Torii Hunter and wife Katrina attand the Cartoon Network Hall of Game Awards in Santa Monica.
Angels outfielder Torii Hunter and wife Katrina attand the Cartoon Network… (Frederic J. Brown / AFP /…)

Reporting from Tempe, Ariz. -- It was almost as if Torii Hunter hit the refresh button on his career this winter.

The Angels right fielder spoke of retirement several times in 2011, at one point saying he wanted to leave the game as an Angel after his five-year, $90-million contract expired after this season.

But a strong two-month finish, when he shook off a pesky quadriceps injury to hit .324 with a .396 on-base percentage, .537 slugging percentage and 10 homers in 51 games, coupled with the off-season additions of slugger Albert Pujols and pitcher C.J. Wilson have invigorated the 36-year-old.

"Definitely," Hunter said, when asked whether this team provides his best shot of reaching his first World Series. "This is probably the best team I've been a part of my whole career. If we stay healthy, we'll be fine. I'm all in."

Hunter, who will join the Angels for their first full-squad workout Monday, was pushed from center field to right field by Peter Bourjos in 2010. The possible return of Kendrys Morales and emergence of youngsters such as Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout could push Hunter out of the Angels' picture next winter.

No matter. Hunter wants to play two or three more years, in Anaheim or elsewhere.

"I have to keep playing and get it out of my system," he said. "I don't want to go home and be like, 'I've got two or three good years left in me.' My body and athletic ability are good. I might not play like I'm 27, but I can play like I'm 28."

Hunter was thrilled to see his Tempe Diablo Stadium locker between those of Pujols, who signed a 10-year, $240-million deal, and Vernon Wells, who is playing on a seven-year, $126-million deal.

"I'm in between two rich guys," Hunter said. "I may never pay for dinner."

Hunter has Bobby's back

Bobby Abreu's play-me-or-trade-me demand may cause some headaches for the front office and Manager Mike Scioscia, but Hunter was OK with it.

"He knows he has something left in the tank and wants to play every day — if he didn't complain, there'd be something wrong with him," Hunter said. "Some people say, 'Sit back, shut up, make your money.' No. Bobby is a player."

Abreu's role could be minimal if Morales returns from a broken ankle and takes over as the primary designated hitter. The Angels have tried to trade Abreu, but his $9-million salary and diminishing skills will make that difficult.

The outfielder, who turns 38 in March, hit .253 with eight homers and 60 runs batted in last season, primarily as a DH.

"I don't think you ever doubt your abilities as a player," Scioscia said last week. "But players are usually the last ones to feel they can't do something. I was the same way. I couldn't do [anything] at the end of my career, but I thought I could make the All-Star team."

Short hops

The Angels signed 33-year-old right-hander Juan Rincon, a former Minnesota Twins reliever who has appeared in two major league games since 2009, to a minor league contract that does not include an invitation to big league camp. … Scioscia went home sick early Sunday, the first time he has missed a spring-training workout in 13 years with the Angels.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

twitter.com/MikeDiGiovanna

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