Results tagged ‘ Angels ’

Turning it around

For me, personally, this has probably been the worst first half of my career. It’s a combination of things. Every time I’ve started to feel good, something has happened, little setbacks. As a team, we struggled the first couple of months, but our pitching kept us alive.

I can’t give enough credit to our pitching staff, especially Jered Weaver and Dan Haren. Both those guys deserve to be in the All-Star Game – and Jered deserves to start. When you’ve got two guys like that, they keep you out of losing streaks and add on to winning streaks. There aren’t many teams that have starting pitching like ours, and it all starts with those two guys. Ervin Santana, Joel Pineiro and the young guy, Tyler Chatwood, all have pitched well, too. And the bullpen has done the job with the new lefties, Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi, giving us balance.

Once we got the breaking news that Kendrys Morales was not returning this season, as a team we kind of folded for about 10 games. That was a very frustrating time for the team, the coaching staff and the front office. It took us about two weeks to realize he’s not going to come back and be with us. We had to come together. We did that, and you can see now that we’re back to playing Angels baseball.

This is the team Mike Scioscia pulled out of Spring Training, the team we thought we were going to be. Vernon Wells is hot, and I’m starting to swing pretty well. We know how much this team needs us to be productive, and we’re determined to do our part. Bobby Abreu is Bobby Abreu. He plays the game right every day. Our infield has been playing great, from All-Star Howard Kendrick to Maicer Izturis, Erick Aybar, Alberto Callaspo and the kid at first, Mark Trumbo.

The key for us now is staying healthy. If we can do that, I really believe this team is capable of going to the World Series.

With all that we went through in the first half – the Morales news, injuries to a lot of guys, including Vernon and myself – it’s amazing to think we’re tied for first place in the American League West right now. That tells me how strong we are and how good we can be.

I have a saying: Don’t let a setback hold you back. Prepare for a comeback. That’s what all the guys have done. While we were struggling, we were preparing for a comeback. We’ve got a lot of strong individuals on this team, and that’s what it takes to get through hard times. We made adjustments and made progress. We don’t give up. We never give up.

I can’t say enough about what all our young guys have done. They’ve been thrown out there with a lot of pressure on them, and they’ve performed.

Look at Hank Conger, our young catcher. That’s a tough position, with a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. You’ve got to command everything, calm pitchers down, call the right pitches, block the plate, block pitches. There’s so much to that job, and Hank has come a long way for a guy in his first full year. We’re in good shape behind the plate with Hank, Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson. That’s great depth at an important position.

Then you look at Mark Trumbo at first base. He’s holding it down. He knew he was under pressure because of Kendrys not being here, and he has come through for us in a big way. Around the league first base is known for power, and he’s been holding his own. It’s not easy when you don’t know the pitchers or the league. The guy has tremendous power and he wants to be good. He works at it. For a first year guy, he’s doing a great job defensively, I think.

Peter Bourjos in center field, what can you say? The guy has been unbelievable. He’s playing Gold Glove defense and growing in confidence at the plate and on the bases. I love to work with a guy with that kind of speed, and the great thing about Pete is, he doesn’t think he knows everything. He really wants to learn. He’s very humble, but he’s also tough when he steps between the lines. He was a football player in high school, catching touchdowns and running back kicks for touchdowns. That sport toughens you up. Only the strong survive. I played football. So did Vernon and Jeff Mathis. You need that kind of intensity and toughness on a team.

Jordan Walden is another kid who’s been put in an important role, closing games, and what he’s done is very impressive. He’s got great stuff and a good attitude. He’s not afraid, either. None of our young guys are. That’s why I think their upside is so great. It’s kind of scary when you think what all these kids are capable of doing when they settle in.

As a team, we’ve struggled, and we’ve fought back. I really like where the Angels are right now. I’m really looking forward to what’s ahead of us.

It’s showtime!

Ah, Opening Day. There’s nothing quite like it. I remember my first one, in 1999 with the Twins. You’re out there on the line, next to home plate, and standing there it kind of hits you. This is really happening. You’re in the big leagues getting to start on Opening Day.

This is my 13th Opening Day, so it’s something I’ve gotten kind of used to now. It’s really all about the young guys, getting their first taste of it. The Angels have some great kids. Peter Bourjos, Jordan Walden, Mark Trumbo, Michael Kohn, Hank Conger . . . this first one is something you’ll never forget.

It’s like the first day of the rest of their career, even though they’ve been here later in the season for some games. This is different. You’ve got the stands full, all the excitement. You know a plane’s going to fly overhead. In 10 years you’ll remember what it felt like standing on that line, all the anxiety you felt.

It’s good to have a nice blend of older guys and young guys, and that’s what we have here. Bobby Abreu, Vernon Wells, myself, some of the pitchers, we can kind of guide and lead all these younger guys. I really like our team, the chemistry we have here. These guys want to get this thing going and show what we can do.

Getting that first game out of the way reminds me of playing football in high school, when I’d come to the line of scrimmage for the first time – the cadence, taking the snap, taking off on an option, getting drilled by a linebacker. Then, after that, it was on. That first hit took away all the butterflies and it was time to compete.

That’s how it is with this first game. You want ideally to get a hit that first at-bat, so you can settle in and just play. You don’t want to be fighting for that first hit one too long. As you get older, you know everything eventually takes care of itself. But when you’re a young guy, everything is heightened, all of your senses. You want to succeed so much.

All right, time to get my game face on now. It’s cold out there, but it’s time to go to work. We’ve got a goal, a mission. This is the first of 162. It’s on.   

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Humbling year comes to a close

ARLINGTON – This is where the long season ends, today, much too soon for us. It’s been a trying year. I’ve been humbled, and we’ve been humbled as a team. Nobody saw this coming, and we’re not going to let it happen again. When we get together for Spring Training, I want us all to remember how bad this felt. That will make us that much hungrier.

Looking back, we got beat down, starting in Spring Training. There was a lot of turnover, a lot of change. Four core guys left: Vladimir Guerrero, Chone Figgins, John Lackey and Darren Oliver. That’s a good piece of the club. And Gary Matthews Jr., too. He was an important role player for us.

It never really came together for us, other than that one stretch we put together in June where we played like us. The rest of the year, that wasn’t us at all. It was somebody else. We weren’t letting our talents flow. We were pressing, trying to do too much, trying to win games by ourselves.

When I signed here, I expected us to be dominant every year. We have to get that feeling back. One thing you can’t expect is injuries, and we had some big ones: Kendry Morales, Maicer Izturis, Jeff Mathis, Joel Pineiro, Jason Bulger. We lost key guys, and I think it kind of knocked us off balance because we didn’t have as much depth as in the past.

This is the first time in my career since 2000, when I was 24 years old, that I played on a team that didn’t have a winning record. With the Twins, we were always in contention. In 2005 I broke my ankle and we didn’t make the postseason, and we didn’t make it in 2007 even though we were fighting for it and got close. Then we made it my first two years here and were two wins away from the World Series last season.

This is a humbling season for me. Sometimes you have to be humbled. You get spoiled sometimes with winning. I have been slapped in the face and the team’s been slapped in the face. I’ve been winning my whole career, and I’m not used to this feeling.

Things don’t always work out the way you plan. I had sports hernia surgery on Nov. 27, and it took me time to get to where I could do my rehab. When I got to Spring Training, it was like I had to learn to run the bases with it again. I had a lot of catching up to do, and the truth is, I didn’t feel the same, like myself, until recently, in August and September.

It all went back to May of 2009 at Dodger Stadium when I crashed into the wall making a catch on Matt Kemp. Then I hit the wall hard in San Francisco a few weeks later, and my groin got really bad. I always try to play through injuries – that’s just who I am – but this was bad. I had to sit a long time, and when I came back I wasn’t right but I gave it my best shot.

Playing center field requires a lot of running, and it seems like I was doing even more than normal this season. My old explosion wasn’t there. I didn’t feel like myself going after balls. I could still make plays, but it wasn’t me. That was something that really hurt me. I always told myself I would retire if I couldn’t play center field, but life is about revising things. It’s like when I said I wasn’t going to get married until I was 25, and I got married when I was 21. Life happens, as they say.

Anyway, I always thought I loved center field more than the game itself. When the decision was made to move me to right field and play Peter Bourjos in center, I found out I loved the game more than center field. That was big. It was hard for me to give up center field, but I knew I had to do it. It improved our defense. Peter is showing what he can do out there. He’s not a finished product, and that’s what’s scary – seeing how good he is already and knowing that he can get so much better.

When Pete got here, I liked that he asked me questions. That let me know he really wanted it. He’s into the game and understands the game offensively and defensively. I wouldn’t put too much on him too soon – let him play and learn and grow. This is just the beginning for him, and I know what that’s like. When I started out in Minnesota, I had guys like Kirby Puckett and Shane Mack to show me things. Now I can do that with Peter, like I did with Denard Span while I was still with the Twins. Now he’s playing some good center field.

It’s funny, it wasn’t until the end of August, the beginning of September, that my legs started feeling a lot better. I felt like I had some burst again, and I was getting down the line better. I think that moving to right actually did help me save wear on my legs. In the long run, that can be a really good thing. Next Spring Training, I’m going to be primed.

We learned a lot this season through the humbling we took. Now we have to turn it back around and be the Angels. That’s all. Just be the Angels, who we are. That will be enough. I’m excited about coming back and getting back to the top, where we belong.

You can catch me on MLB Network with some commentary during the postseason, and I’ll try to be enthusiastic and upbeat. But you know me: I’d rather be on that field, helping drive the Angels toward our ultimate goal. Wait’ll next year.

Dying to get back to work

ANAHEIM – I got my work in today, sitting out the final game of my suspension, and afterward at my locker I was telling the writers that I was serving out my sentence and had 24 hours to go before my release. I told them the first thing I was going to do was call my wife, then get a hamburger. They thought it was pretty funny.

The truth is, it’s been no fun at all sitting around watching my teammates bust their tails on TV, not being able to do anything. I’m a player, and not playing hurts as much as any injury. I never got used to it last year when I injured my groin running into walls and had to miss a chunk of the season. I’ll never get used to not playing until I’m retired, and that’s a long way off, I hope.

I told the media it’s probably a little blessing in disguise, giving me a little break, but I don’t ever like watching my team play knowing I could be doing something to help us win. I hate what happened in Detroit, the whole incident. I’m still frustrated, upset about that. I was heated, and I don’t like to be like that. But I have to let it go and move forward now, try not to think about it.

I’ve been asked a lot about making the move to right field to make room for young Peter Bourjos coming up to play center. The truth is, they didn’t come to me and say, “You’ve got to go to right field.’ They told me it was up to me. I had to think about it. I decided that if it made the team better, I was all for it. I had to think about the big picture, the long haul, and this could prolong my career, keep me on the field more. And that’s a good thing for everybody, I feel.

Bourjos is straight speed. That young man can fly. Watching him on the road trip run down some balls, even go after ones he didn’t get to, I was like, “Wow. That’s impressive.” As we play together more, I’ll know his range, what he can get to, and let him have it.

Right field is not center field. Center field is fun; you’ve got a lot of power out there. It’s a power trip, really. You can call off infielders, the left fielder, the right fielder. Anything you can get to, it’s yours. It’s not easy to give up something you love, whatever it is, and this isn’t easy for me. But if it makes the Angels better and helps us win, I’m all for it.

I’ve won nine Rawlings Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger, but I’ve never won a World Series championship ring. That’s what we’re all playing for, and I’ll do whatever I can to help move us in that direction.

The toughest part of playing right field so far has been playing the corner. It’s a totally different look in right, with a lot of top-spin on the ball, hook and spin. When the ball’s hopping around in that corner, you’re thinking, “What are you going to give up, a double or a triple?” It’s something new for me to learn, and that’s a good thing. A guy told me a long time ago that once you think you’ve got it all figured out, your career’s over. I’ve got more to learn, so I’ve got some time left.

Mike Scioscia came over after the media guys left, and we talked for a while. He played against the guy who made me want to be a baseball player, Andre Dawson, and we talked about how he made the transition from center to right and actually became a more productive hitter. It was easier on his legs, and as a hitter, everything starts there. I see that as a good sign. I think I’m getting better all the time as a hitter, and I’m looking forward to seeing where this takes me – and our team.

There’s a lot of season left, and I’m ready to get back out there and bang some balls around and have some fun.

 

All about catching Rangers

NEW YORK – It’s been a long, bumpy ride through the first half for our Angels, and the All-Star Game was an awesome experience in every way. But now it’s strictly baseball. It’s about catching the Rangers, and they’re hotter than a firecracker.

They’ve got the best offensive numbers in Major League Baseball, and they added Cliff Lee to a strong pitching staff. They’ve also got Tommy Hunter, who’s 7-0 after getting sent down. There’s something about T-Hunters. That’s a little joke, you know.

Going to Texas, home for me, after we finish up with the Yankees, we know what we have to do. We have to play well, play consistent baseball. Everybody has to step up, play smart and tough baseball. We’ve got to bunt guys over, hit-and-run. We’ve got to come out of the bullpen throwing strikes, make all the plays.

In the past, we were the team everyone was chasing. Now we’re the ones trying to catch up, so we can’t afford to be making mistakes. Sometimes teams with a lead can get comfortable, but they know they can’t get too comfortable. They know what we’ve done before, and what we’re capable of doing. We’re the team that’s been winning for a long time, that has history. We’re playing well, but they’ve been playing better. We have to change that.

The first half, to sum it up, you have to say it was a bumpy road. In April, we didn’t play the way we were capable of playing. The offense, defense and pitching were all subpar. Then we got to May and June and started playing our style of baseball – great defense, hitting the ball pretty hard, pitching well. It seemed like we didn’t have any flaws.

Then the last week before the All-Star Game, we ran into the hottest team in the game, the White Sox, and they swept us four straight in Chicago. We had those rain delays and then the long flight to Oakland, getting in at 5 a.m. That kind of carried over to Oakland, and we didn’t play well there.

The All-Star break was good for the guys, I think. They were able to go to the beach, relax, not even think about the game. It refreshed the guys. For myself and Jered Weaver, it was a little different. We were involved in all the All-Star Game and all the activities. It was awesome, don’t get me wrong. But it was also a little exhausting.

I had 25 to 30 family members come in, and I was entertaining them, Angel fans, MLB fans and some of the players, too. From 7 a.m. all the way through the way, I was on the move, attending the Fanfest, events, talking to people. It was an amazing experience. The color fed was everywhere I went. It gave me a real sense of how big the Angels are now, how loyal the fan base is. It was a great experience. It was for the fans, and they had a great time. So it was well worth it in every respect.

Now it’s all baseball. It’s time to go to work. I’m excited to get Maicer Izturis back, because he’s one of the best clutch hitters around, .326 in his career with runners in scoring position, and a tremendous all-around player. He’s going to help a lot – he already has, driving in those big runs in our win last night over the Yankees.

With Izzy getting back in it, with Mike Napoli tearing it up and playing good first base, and with Bobby Abreu, Hideki Matsui, Juan Rivera and all the other veterans firing on all cylinders, we know we’re capable of playing great baseball. It’s time to go. Let’s do it.

 

Catching up on Angels, Griff, hoops, VIP Fan Club

SEATTLE – There are a few things I’d like to catch up on today – how my Angels are coming alive, Ken Griffey Jr., my man from Arkansas Derek Fisher – but first I’d like to let fans know about something new on the site.

I’d like you to become a part of my VIP Mobile Fan Club! It’s free to join. All you have to do is text Go Torii to the number 68398. We will be doing giveaways and contests all season long.

All the information can be found here: http://www.toriihunter.com/news.php?news=49

As for the Angels, it’s been a long climb, but we’re starting to play and feel like ourselves again. That is really good to see, for everybody. Where we were in April, it could only get better. We were so down and out, it wasn’t even our team. Defensively, offensively, pitching . . . that wasn’t us. We didn’t even have our instincts. It was strange.

Now it’s more like us. We’re in games to the finish. Even when we lose, we feel like we’ve got a shot, that we just ran out of innings. It wasn’t like that in April. I hate that we lost Kendry Morales, one of our best hitters and run producers – and a guy who was playing great defense at first base. We’re trying to fill in with my old buddy Michael Ryan and Mike Napoli, Robb Quinlan. You can’t really replace a guy like Kendry, but if we get production from the rest of our big bats, we’ll score runs.

Hideki Matsui is swinging like he can again, and that’s great to see. This guy can hit. I’ve always said that, and he’s showing it again. With Bobby Abreu and the other guys getting on base and the big guys producing runs, we can score. Our pitching is definitely coming around and our defense is getting more consistent, too. I’m excited about where we are. I keep coming back to last year, when we were 29-29 on June 11 and took off after we had a terrible loss in Tampa Bay.

It’s that time of year where a lot of these guys start to heat up. I’ve always been that way, and I’ve been feeling good at the plate. I tend to heat up with the weather.

It’s sad to be here in Seattle and not see Ken Griffey Jr. He’s one of my favorite players and favorite guys. He was a little ahead of me, and I used to watch everything he did and try to do it like he did. I even tried swinging from the left side when I was young, because I loved his swing so much. It was perfect. The thing about Junior was he loved the game and everything about it. He made it fun, showed everyone that you could play the game all-out – crashing into walls, making fantastic plays – and still have a smile on your face. He had a big influence on me, just like Kirby Puckett when I was a young kid with the Twins.

One last word on the blog is for Derek Fisher of the Lakers. When I was growing up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, one of our big rivals was D-Fish’s high school, Little Rock Parkview. We were only about 30 minutes away, and we played them in everything. Lots of great memories there.

D-Fish was a legend in high school. He was going for 30, 40 points a game. I remember he got 55 one time. I didn’t play against him – he was a little ahead of me in school – but I watched him play. Naturally, I’m pulling for D-Fish now. I’ve also had some great times in Minnesota with Kevin Garnett of the Celtics, so I have a rooting interest in both teams in those NBA Finals.

All right, time to get to work. We’re wearing old-school uniforms from 1995 today against the Mariners. I was in my third year or pro ball in ’95, turning 20 years old, playing at Fort Myers. Man, that’s a long time ago.

We’ve been playing good ball lately and plan to keep it going. We’re going to do everything we can to take it all the way. You know that.
 

 

Love to the one who made it all possible

For me, every day is Mother’s Day. It’s always been that way, always will be that way. She’s my guiding light, the one who always put that smile on my face and gave me the strength to handle whatever comes my way.

Shirley Hunter, my mom, was a teacher for more than 30 years in Little Rock and Pine Bluff, Ark. She taught high school early on, then third grade for the last 20 years or so. She’s an awesome lady. She taught my brothers – Taru, Tishque and Tramar – and me while she was teaching all those other kids. My dad, Theotis, was like a kid too, so she really had her hands full with a house full of guys.

 When she taught in Little Rock, it was a 40-minute drive, so she didn’t get home until about 6 at night. With her gone all day, we made sure we took care of whatever we could to make it easier for her. She’d get home and make sure we were all good. If any of us got sick, she’d stay home and take care of us. She took care of everybody. That was just the way she was.

And she disciplined us. She did everything she could to keep us out of trouble. She knew how to put the fear of God in us. Any time I was thinking about doing something with my friends that I knew was wrong, I’d hear her voice in my head. She’d say, “You do that, I’m gonna whip your butt.’ And she would, too.

There were a lot of men in my family; I have two nieces, and my mom takes care of them. They’re the girls she never had.

Her dad, George Cobbs, is the one who got me interested in baseball. He played the game and taught me how to hold the ball and bat, when I was 7 or 8. As I got older, he told me about the history of the game, made me aware of all the great players. We’d watch games together, the Braves and Cubs usually, and he’d tell me all these stories about the legends.

My mom was very athletic when she was young. I remember she used to line us all up when we were kids and race us, and she’d beat us every time. That must be where I got my speed.

She didn’t have it easy, raising all of us and working as hard as she did. But she never complained, never talked about her problems. She had to be tired, but she always took care of us, washing our clothes, cooking dinner every night. We got a little more time with her, an extra hour, when she started teaching in Pine Bluff, when I was in eighth grade. That was nice.

Even though I’m gone so much and away from my mom now, it still carries on. My wife, Katrina, takes care of our sons the way my mom took care of us. And they’re doing everything they can to take care of her, like we did with our mom.

My wife is actually a lot like my mom. She cleans up after me, holds me when I’m sick. And she disciplines me! She makes me sleep on the couch when I mess up. She inherited my mom’s role, but I try to tell her I’m a grown man now.

I’ll be in Seattle this weekend, trying to get things turned around with the Angels. I want to send my love to my mom and my wife on their special day.

I’m really blessed to have had such strong women in my life. I don’t even want to think about where I’d be if my mom hadn’t kept me in line and taken care of me when I was young. I have her to thank for everything I’ve done in life. I’ve always tried to make her proud, and that never stops.

All my love, Mom. Have a great Mother’s Day. I know all my teammates share my feelings about their mothers, so here’s to all of you, too. All mothers deserve to be treated like queens on their day. 

   

Its how you finish that matters

It’s not how you start – it’s how you finish. A slow start by a team can happen for a lot of reasons, but it’s never anything to panic about. That’s especially true when you have a team of veterans, like we do, who know how to play the game. This is a confident team, and with good reason.

You look at the talent we have, up and down the lineup and on our pitching staff, and you know it’s just a matter of time before it comes together. A lot of times early in the season you’re not in your rhythm, you’re not feeling like yourself. You might get some hits, but even then you know you’re not right. Or you might be hitting line drives at guys and getting nothing to show for it. Early-season numbers can be very deceiving.

There are some guys who come out hitting .450 early in April and May, and everyone’s saying it’s their breakout year. And you know eventually they’ll finish about where they normally do. You find at the end of the season he’s hitting .260, or whatever he usually hits. Another guy might be hitting .150 in April, and everyone’s saying he’s done. And you know he’ll end up hitting .315 with 30 homers.

It’s a long season, and the cream rises to the top eventually.

In this game, you are what you are. You see guys like A-Rod or Mark Teixeira, for example, or David Ortiz, and they might not be driving the ball early. But you know they’ll come around. They’re hitters; that’s who they are. They’ll end up with their numbers, unless they get hurt.

Fans sometimes overreact early in the season, because they’re fans. They want to win every game and get upset when their team loses. We don’t ever want to lose as players, but we understand how this works. It’s a long season, with highs and lows, good times and bad times. You work through the rough times and stay confident that the good times are on the way.

The truth is, you don’t want to be peaking too early. I mean, you’ll take it if it’s there, but you want to be strong at the finish, when it really matters. You don’t want to peak in June and July and fall off in August, September. That’s what I mean when I say it’s not about how you start, it’s how you finish. That’s what counts.

Personally, it’s taken me a little longer than usual to get where I need to be physically this season. I had the sports hernia surgery after the season, and I wasn’t able to do my usual offseason workouts. I couldn’t really do anything in January. All I could do was hit.

When we got to Spring Training, I was skeptical about how the groin would react. If I made a really hard turn, was it going to hold up? I never went through anything like this before, and Mike Scioscia was telling me to take it easy. He’s a great manager; he always sees the big picture. He wanted me to slow-roll everything. Once I broke the scar tissue sliding, it was a big relief. It wasn’t until the last two weeks of the spring I really started playing.

I feel good about where I am right now, all things considered. I’m hitting the ball hard, and even though I have only one home run, they come in bunches for me. The big thing is, I’m having no pain with the groin. I’m confident I’ll be where I want to be in the summer, when it heats up.

I really like our team. I liked it last year, and I like it this year. We’re a little different, with some new guys trying to establish themselves, but we’re basically the same team with the same chemistry.

Remember how it was last season? We were a .500 team in June. The Rays killed us in Florida to end a road trip, and we were 29-29. Mike Scioscia had a talk with us after that game, and we came home and went off on a tear. We ended up with 97 wins, which means from June 12 to the finish, we were 68-36.

Hopefully, our fans are patient enough to know where the Angels are going to be in August, September. We’re fine where we are. This team knows how to win. I know the sun’s going to shine sooner or later – on and off the field, in baseball and in life.

It’s how you finish that matters

It’s not how you start – it’s how you finish. A slow start by a team can happen for a lot of reasons, but it’s never anything to panic about. That’s especially true when you have a team of veterans, like we do, who know how to play the game. This is a confident team, and with good reason.

You look at the talent we have, up and down the lineup and on our pitching staff, and you know it’s just a matter of time before it comes together. A lot of times early in the season you’re not in your rhythm, you’re not feeling like yourself. You might get some hits, but even then you know you’re not right. Or you might be hitting line drives at guys and getting nothing to show for it. Early-season numbers can be very deceiving.

There are some guys who come out hitting .450 early in April and May, and everyone’s saying it’s their breakout year. And you know eventually they’ll finish about where they normally do. You find at the end of the season he’s hitting .260, or whatever he usually hits. Another guy might be hitting .150 in April, and everyone’s saying he’s done. And you know he’ll end up hitting .315 with 30 homers.

It’s a long season, and the cream rises to the top eventually.

In this game, you are what you are. You see guys like A-Rod or Mark Teixeira, for example, or David Ortiz, and they might not be driving the ball early. But you know they’ll come around. They’re hitters; that’s who they are. They’ll end up with their numbers, unless they get hurt.

Fans sometimes overreact early in the season, because they’re fans. They want to win every game and get upset when their team loses. We don’t ever want to lose as players, but we understand how this works. It’s a long season, with highs and lows, good times and bad times. You work through the rough times and stay confident that the good times are on the way.

The truth is, you don’t want to be peaking too early. I mean, you’ll take it if it’s there, but you want to be strong at the finish, when it really matters. You don’t want to peak in June and July and fall off in August, September. That’s what I mean when I say it’s not about how you start, it’s how you finish. That’s what counts.

Personally, it’s taken me a little longer than usual to get where I need to be physically this season. I had the sports hernia surgery after the season, and I wasn’t able to do my usual offseason workouts. I couldn’t really do anything in January. All I could do was hit.

When we got to Spring Training, I was skeptical about how the groin would react. If I made a really hard turn, was it going to hold up? I never went through anything like this before, and Mike Scioscia was telling me to take it easy. He’s a great manager; he always sees the big picture. He wanted me to slow-roll everything. Once I broke the scar tissue sliding, it was a big relief. It wasn’t until the last two weeks of the spring I really started playing.

I feel good about where I am right now, all things considered. I’m hitting the ball hard, and even though I have only one home run, they come in bunches for me. The big thing is, I’m having no pain with the groin. I’m confident I’ll be where I want to be in the summer, when it heats up.

I really like our team. I liked it last year, and I like it this year. We’re a little different, with some new guys trying to establish themselves, but we’re basically the same team with the same chemistry.

Remember how it was last season? We were a .500 team in June. The Rays killed us in Florida to end a road trip, and we were 29-29. Mike Scioscia had a talk with us after that game, and we came home and went off on a tear. We ended up with 97 wins, which means from June 12 to the finish, we were 68-36.

Hopefully, our fans are patient enough to know where the Angels are going to be in August, September. We’re fine where we are. This team knows how to win. I know the sun’s going to shine sooner or later – on and off the field, in baseball and in life.

Opening Day: new season, old friends

The big day is here, and it’s always something special. I can’t even describe what the adrenaline rush is like on Opening Day. It’s my 12th Opening Day, and the butterflies will be there as always. Once the game starts, though, it’s back to doing what we do. It’s a thrill to take the field and get another season going.

We’re meeting my old team, the Twins, to get it started for the second time in my three years with the Angels. Everyone knows how it all started for me in Minnesota, so this is special.

The truth is, I’m looking forward to this one a lot more than the opener at the Metrodome in 2008. That series went four games and was hard on me emotionally, mentally and even physically, being on artificial turf.

Opening Day at the Metrdome, my first game in an Angels uniform, that was really rough on me. I was kind of in a daze, running around trying to see so many people who meant so much to me for such a big part of my life. I knew everybody there, from the janitors to the vendors.

My nerves were shot before the game even started. I didn’t play very well and we lost, but it was just one game. As the series went on, I started feeling better and playing better. I hit a home run, got a few hits and we came out of it all right. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t glad it was over.

This time it’s all different. The Twins are coming to our house, to my place. It’ll be good to see all those guys again, from Ron Gardenhire and Joe Mauer through the ranks. That’s always been a great organization, and I was proud to be a Twin from June 3, 1993 to the end of 2007.

It’s a new era with the Twins. They showed that when they stepped up and did what it took to keep Joe. They showed they didn’t want to be a small-market team anymore. They’ve got their new ballpark, and a whole new era. It’s great to see.

Guys like myself and Johan Santana, we were there at the wrong time. They couldn’t keep us, but I know it means the world to those great fans that they signed Joe, their hometown guy, to that eight-year deal. I was really happy to see that.

It’s going to be exciting for those guys to come to our turf. It’ll be cool to see Gardy, Jerry White, all those guys who taught me so much.

I’ll also get to see some guys I helped raise as players. Denard Span, who’s taking my old spot, is my protg. He came to stay with me in Texas, in my house. I talked to him about everything, from finances to family to the game.

Gardy was one of the first guys I met when I signed with the Twins out of high school in Pine Bluff, Ark. I was 17 when I signed. We met in Spring Training in 1994. He was the third-base coach then, and he was so cool to me. I’ll always remember that.

Gardenhire reminds me of Mike Scioscia in some ways. Both those guys are really into the game, always studying the game. I don’t know if Gardy has changed any – I seriously doubt it — but when I was there, he was a players’ manager. He was always joking with the players, staying close to us. Guys loved playing for him.

I’ve been lucky to spend almost my whole career playing for two of the best managers in the game. We’re going to do everything we can to take Mike back to the World Series this season. It’s a long process, but everything starts with that first step, that first game. Let’s get it going.

 

 

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