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ANGELS NOTES

Torii Hunter thrives in new spot in Angels lineup

Right fielder is batting .500 with three home runs and nine runs batted in since being moved to No. 2 in the order, behind Mike Trout and in front of Albert Pujols.

June 13, 2012|By Mike DiGiovanna

It's not so much the two-hole that is bringing out the best in Torii Hunter. It's the hitters surrounding the Angels right fielder in his new lineup spot.

Hunter batted second 29 times in 2011, usually between leadoff batters Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis and No. 3 hitter Bobby Abreu, and hit .198 (22 for 111) with five home runs and 14 runs batted in.

Manager Mike Scioscia moved Hunter back to the second spot Friday in Colorado, but this time Hunter was slotted behind on-base machine Mike Trout, the dynamic 20-year-old speedster, and slugger Albert Pujols, considered the best hitter of the last decade.

The result: Hunter, who hit fourth or fifth for the first month and a half, hit .500 (12 for 24) with three homers, nine RBIs and eight runs in his first five games in the two-hole, a spot Scioscia said the 36-year-old will remain in for now.

"It's a great spot to be in," Hunter said. "The pitchers are getting after me early. They don't want to walk me and face Albert. And they're really focused on Trout on the bases, so I'm seeing a lot more fastballs, and even the breaking balls are not in the dirt. They're up. Hitting in the second spot isn't so bad. I kind of like it."

It seems as if every time Hunter comes up, Trout is on base. Trout began Wednesday night's game with a .345 average and a .406 on-base percentage. Though he joined the Angels in late April, Trout leads the team with 35 runs and is tied for the American League lead with 15 stolen bases. And Pujols has been on a tear, with seven straight multi-hit games before Wednesday.

"Torii hit second a little bit last year, but the surrounding parts weren't exactly what they are now," Scioscia said. "Hitting between Mike and Albert is a great spot to be in. It doesn't seem to make much sense to put Torii there, but he runs well enough, he brings an element of power, he understands the situational component, and he really gives you a presence in the two-hole."

Chris Iannetta suffers a setback

Catcher Chris Iannetta, who suffered a forearm injury last week while trying to return from a broken right wrist, will spend several days strengthening his arm before attempting another minor league rehabilitation assignment. He hopes to begin playing with Class-A Inland Empire next week.

"I tried to push the envelope and came back too soon," said Iannetta, who has been out since May 10. "My arm tightened up, and that's a sign I need to step back and get in better playing shape."

Short hops

Scioscia said veteran left-hander Scott Downs, who suffered a rib-cage injury while stabbing at a line drive to the mound Sunday in Colorado, was "feeling better" Wednesday but was unavailable to pitch for the third straight game. … Despite his recent struggles, Ervin Santana will remain in the rotation and start Saturday against Arizona, Scioscia said.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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