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Angels' Torii Hunter finally joins the .300 club

Torii Hunter has seven hits in doubleheader at Texas to lift average to .313, guaranteeing that, at age 37, he will finish a season above .300 for the first time.

October 01, 2012|By Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times

ARLINGTON, Texas — Torii Hunter added a page to his free-agent resume Sunday. For the first time in his career, he will be a .300 hitter.

With seven hits in Sunday's doubleheader — including the game-winning double in the first game — he lifted his batting average to .313. If he were to go 0 for 5 in each of the remaining three games, he still would finish at .304.

Hunter has hit at least 21 home runs in every full season in the major leagues — until this one. He has 16 home runs this season, but his average and on-base percentage are on pace for career highs.

"It's awesome," Hunter said. "Early in my career, I was swinging for the fences. Now that I'm older and more mature — don't say old, just more mature — I don't swing as hard any more. I'm having better at-bats."

Hunter, 37, would become the oldest first-time .300 hitter since 1957, when Baltimore's Bob Boyd hit .318 at age 37. In addition to his offense, he has played Gold Glove-caliber defense in right field, according to Manager Mike Scioscia. The Angels, once believed to be willing to let Hunter go in free agency, now have committed to try to keep him.

Hunter declined to discuss contract issues with the Angels still alive in the playoff race, but he has played so well that his price might have increased to a level that could make the Angels squirm.

He is earning $18 million this season, and he has said he is willing to take a pay cut to return, but what might have been a one-year deal almost surely will turn into a multiyear contract. The Angels guaranteed Bobby Abreu $9 million per year at age 35, when he was a defensive liability, so the bidding for Hunter might start in the annual range of $12 million.

I before E? Not Greinke

If this was Zack Greinke's last start for the Angels, he gave them the shirt off his back.

In the fifth inning, that is, and only because they asked.

Of the two jerseys hanging in his locker Sunday, Greinke picked the one that misspelled his last name. He took the mound wearing GRIENKE on his back, and the Angels finally noticed and gave him a replacement jersey halfway through the game.

He pitched 7 1/3 innings in the first game of the doubleheader. The Angels won, 5-4, on Hunter's two-run double in the ninth, but Greinke gave up all four runs with GRIENKE on his back.

"We'd have won a lot easier if not for him," Greinke said.

Greinke, who is eligible for free agency this fall, declined to discuss the possibility that this might have been his Angels farewell.

The Milwaukee Brewers offered him five years and more than $100 million, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. When he declined, the Brewers traded him to the Angels for three prospects.

"We made him a great offer," Brewers Manager Ron Roenicke told the Journal-Sentinel on Sunday. "We'll see how much he likes it in Anaheim."

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