Hunter set to begin rehab stint
Injured outfielder to play in Double-A before rejoining Angels
CHICAGO -- Torii Hunter hasn't played a baseball game in his native Arkansas since 1993, but he's looking forward to testing his muscle strain in a few Minor League rehab games in Little Rock this weekend with the Angels' Double-A affiliate, the Travelers.
"It works out good," Hunter said, having run at 85 to 90 percent at U.S. Cellular Field here on Tuesday without any problems with the ailment in his right side that has sidelined him since July 10. "I would love to do a rehab stint in Little Rock. It looks like I'll be there on Friday."
He'd rather be in Anaheim this weekend, roaming center field for the Angels against AL West rival Texas. But Hunter is realistic enough to know he needs a few games under his belt to get his timing and be ready to resume what has been his best all-around Major League season as he turned 34 on July 18.
"You can't tell in BP where you are," Hunter said, referring to batting practice. "In BP, I'm Reggie Jackson. In a game, I might be Janet Jackson."
The team's reigning jokester, having appointed Chone Figgins as Vice President Biden after the third baseman began calling him "Obama" for his attraction to the media, Hunter is eager to regain his forum as the team's mouthpiece -- and centerpiece.
"Defensively, it doesn't bother me at all -- even when I was hurting," he said of the adductor muscle that became the focus of his pain after crashing into walls at Dodger Stadium and AT&T Park in San Francisco. "I was swinging the bat all right. It was more running the bases than anything.
"After a month of pain, it caught up with me."
Hunter was batting .314 when he ran into the wall at Dodger Stadium on May 24, robbing Matt Kemp of extra bases. He was up to .319 when he crashed into the wall in San Francisco on June 15 with an 8-0 lead, having to leave the game with multiple aches and pains.
Returning just two days later, Hunter played 18 games, up to July 7, before finally caving in to the pain in his right side and going to the DL for the first time since 2006 and the fifth time in his career.
A Gold Glove winner eight seasons running with a ninth on the way, Hunter is batting .305 with 17 homers and 65 RBIs, ranking among the AL leaders with a .558 slugging percentage.
In Hunter's absence, Gary Matthews Jr. has excelled defensively and has contributed with the bat. Over the past 20 games, the Angels winning 17, Matthews has raised his average from .223 to .245.
Matthews is a different hitter with runners on base, batting .301 overall. He's a .349 hitter with runners in scoring position and is batting .455 with two outs and runners in scoring position.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.