11/28/07 6:51 PM ET
Angels introduce two newest additions
Hunter, Garland welcomed at Angel Stadium press conference
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
As they pulled on their new uniform jerseys -- No. 48 for Hunter, No. 20 for Garland -- and addressed the Southern California media, neither of the new Angels could stop beaming.
"Baseball was meant to be played outdoors, on grass -- and what could be better than playing here," Hunter, as charismatic as any player in the game, said on Wednesday at Angel Stadium.
"I'm happy to be on the same club as Jon Garland. I was tired of facing that sinker in on my hands and not getting anything done. He's a bulldog. He can get you six, seven, eight innings, maybe a complete game."
They shared the stage together during an introductory press conference, Hunter having agreed to a five-year, $90 million free-agent contract -- details still being ironed out -- after Garland had been acquired from the Chicago White Sox for shortstop Orlando Cabrera.
Even as he was holding Minnesota's Hunter to a .250 career average and two homers in 56 at-bats, Garland was deeply impressed by the center fielder's superlative gifts. You don't claim seven consecutive Rawlings Gold Gloves on reputation or because you're a nice guy.
"I'm not one to go out and strike out the side," Garland said. "The ball's going to be put in play. To have a guy like Torii roam center field is a huge complement to myself."
Hunter, 32, brings a highly productive bat to the table along with that sensational, homer-snatching glove and a megawatt personality that will bring new life and energy to a relatively reserved clubhouse.
While admitting that "the money is definitely nice," Hunter said he'd have come to Anaheim for less than what others were offering. It was a no-brainer, he added, when owner Arte Moreno put an offer on the table and gave him 24 hours to take it or leave it.
"I needed five [hours]," Hunter said, wanting to make sure Angels manager Mike Scioscia and the rest of the troupe was as excited to have him as he was to join the cast.
A big part of the lure, Hunter said, was Moreno's eagerness to go to great lengths to assemble a championship-caliber outfit.
"I talked to him, and I could feel he wanted to win," Hunter said. "He was excited; I was excited. He said, `You're the best outfielder ... you're hungry ... and you've got the best personality.
"Arte, he's all about winning. `You want me to jump, Arte, say how high.' I'm happy he told me I was pretty funny. I just be me. No room for being uptight. You've gotta have fun with it, because once it's gone, it's gone."
New Angels general manager Tony Reagins, who welcomed the new club members, said the formal signing of Hunter's contract was a few "final details" away.
"That should be done relatively quickly," Reagins said. "He hasn't officially written his name, but we've agreed to all the terms."
Hunter expressed his spontaneous sense of humor repeatedly during a press conference that included new teammates John Lackey and Garret Anderson. A reference to the club's notorious Rally Monkey brought resounding laughter.
Plopping a stuffed monkey on his shoulder, Hunter said, "This Rally Monkey has been a thorn in my side. The monkey's going to be my friend. We're going to be in malls together, walking the beach. Me and the Rally Monkey."
Hunter's Twins reached the American League Championship Series in 2002, only to be knocked out by the eventual World Series champions from Anaheim.
"I want the ring," Hunter said. "I've been so close. We went to the ALCS, and the Angels, the monkey and Adam Kennedy kicked us out of there. They're trying to win the right way. That's why I felt this was the best fit for me."
Garland, a 2005 World Series champion with the White Sox, fell on hard times individually in 2007 as his team struggled through injuries and disappointing performances.
A back-to-back 18-game winner in 2005 and '06, Garland feels capable of returning to that form after going 10-13 with a 4.35 ERA in '07, citing the Angels' defense and a more pitcher-friendly ballpark as two big reasons.
"I think the biggest key is being able to come right at hitters," Garland said. "Pitching in U.S. Cellular [Field], the ball can fly out of the park at any time. You can make the best pitch in the world, and a guy can put it out of the park. Here, with the heavy air, I'm going to go after guys with that outfield behind me. I'll attack them and see what happens."
One of the biggest games of his career unfolded at Angel Stadium in the 2005 postseason.
Working Game 3 against the Angels, Garland -- who attended the same high school, Granada Hills Kennedy, as Anderson -- shut down Anderson and Co., 5-2. Garland went the distance, allowing four hits and a walk while striking out seven.
"That's the last time I was in this [interview] room," Garland said, grinning.
Embarking now on the final year of his contract, the 6-foot-6 right-hander has left quite an impression on Scioscia, who made Garland a target during the club's organizational meetings in Texas in the final week of the season.
"Mike said we should go after Jon Garland, and that's what we did," Moreno said.
Garland is home, and Hunter was making himself right at home with wife Katrina and sons Cameron, Torii Jr. and Monshadrik.
"Come a long way from Pine Bluff," Hunter said, "a little kid from Arkansas who didn't grow up with much. I respect the game, what it's done for me and my family's life."
And he has no doubt he's come to the right place at this stage of his life.
"I wanted to be welcomed," he said, "and I can feel that now."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.