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At 37, Hunter goes back to roots as Angels' No. 2 hitter

The SportsXchange

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Torii Hunter has found a way to turn back the clock on his game this year.

The 37-year-old has been rejuvenated by a switch to the No. 2 spot in the lineup, nestled in between dynamic rookie outfielder Mike Trout at leadoff and future Hall of Fame first baseman Albert Pujols batting third.

Hunter has batted .351 (97-for-276) in the spot since moving there in early June. It's the highest average of any No. 2 hitter in baseball. But it is not just the advantages created by Trout's frequent presence on the bases and Pujols' menacing presence in the on-deck circle that have boosted Hunter.

"I think that's why the 2 spot is becoming a terrific fit for him," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's back in tune with probably the type hitter he was back in the minor leagues and when he first got to the big leagues. His power developed and he's a guy who hit 25 home runs a year. But he's more than that, and I think he's back in the tune with that."

Hunter agrees and says he has cut down his swing and returned to his roots since July, resurrecting his old game in his new role.

"That was in my game coming up when I was younger," Hunter said. "I was batting leadoff, second. I bunted, hit-and-ran. I was stealing bases, everything. Then I showed a lot of power in 2001 (27 home runs). That's when they said, 'This guy can hit for power. Let's bat him 4, 5, 6.'

"I'm more mature at the plate now. I know the strike zone better. I'm swinging at strikes, and it's a lot of fun to get on base for Albert."

The alterations have Hunter batting .305, including .354 (64-for-181) since the All-Star break, which leads the majors. Hunter, who has never hit .300 for a season, had four consecutive games with at least three hits last week.

"Torii might be playing the best baseball we've seen in his stay with us right now," Scioscia said. "I think he's rejuvenated hitting in the 2-hole and I think he's getting back to the type of baseball he was weaned on when he came through the Minnesota organization.

"I don't think he's feeling the burden to have to break open the game with a three-run home run, and I think he's in a great spot right now."
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