Results tagged ‘ Hideki Matsui ’

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.
 

 

Angels: Built to win

ANAHEIM – It’s great to be back in our park, back home. We got everything accomplished we needed to do in Arizona, and now it’s time to get ready for the real thing. We’re looking forward to seeing the Twins on Monday, so we can get this show started.

I know there’s been a lot of attention focused on the guys we lost this winter – Chone Figgins, John Lackey, Vladimir Guerrero, Darren Oliver, Gary Matthews Jr. But that’s the way the game is. Guys move on, and you adapt. We’ve made some great additions, and I’m really excited with the team we’ve put together here.

Of course, it hurts losing teammates who were friends. A guy like Figgy, he was a respected man in the clubhouse, a leadoff guy who scored more than 100 runs and saved a lot of runs with his glove. He played the game right. But he got a great deal in Seattle, just like I got a great deal here. I’m happy for Figgy, but he’s on the other side now, and we’ll compete against each other with everything we’ve got.

I’ve got a ton of confidence in Erick Aybar taking over as the leadoff man. He’s a young guy with tremendous talent coming off a big year. And he can fly. He’s going to be fun to watch on the bases. With another year of experience with his mentor, Bobby Abreu, Aybar should be even better.

Bobby’s one of the best leaders in the game, and I’m so happy he’s back. You could see his influence last year in how much Aybar and Kendry Morales and so many other guys improved during the season. Bobby even helped out veterans like Figgy and me in a big way by showing us how to be more disciplined and selective at the plate. Everyone learned from watching Bobby and listening to him.

Lackey was a bulldog, one of the reasons I wanted to come here, but he got a great deal in Boston. We signed Joel Pineiro to replace Lackey in the rotation, and I’m impressed with Pineiro. You’ve got to like a guy who throws strikes and keeps the ball down. He should get real deep in games with our defense behind him.

With Pineiro, Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana and Scott Kazmir, we’ve got five solid starters, five guys who will give us a chance to win every night. We’re built to win with that rotation and with a deep bullpen. We’ve got some big arms out there, and this is Brian Fuentes’ second year in the American League. That always helps, getting that first year to figure things out.
 
Hideki Matsui is the guy I call the Quiet Assassin. He’s as clutch as they come, in a quiet way. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Hideki does in our lineup. He’s a pro, like Bobby, and you can never have enough of those guys.

Morales was born to hit. I call him Captain Caveman and Bam-Bam. He’s solid, strong and he always wants to use that stick and hit. And he’s good down at first with the glove.

Hitting behind Aybar and Bobby, and in front of Hideki, Morales, Juan Rivera, Howard Kendrick, Brandon Wood, Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis, Maicer Izturis. That’s a lot of talent, a load of weapons.

Brandon Wood, his thing is to play defense and do his part. Let us have the pressure. That’s why they’re paying us. We just want him to relax and play. He’s got it in him to hit at least 20 homers, with 70-plus RBIs. If he does that, he helps the team tremendously. The way he’s played third base, he’s been impressive.

Everybody knows what Izturis can do – pretty much whatever you need. He’s versatile and clutch, the kind of guy every winning team needs. Kendrick is going to do some really big damage this year. He’s my pick to click. I definitely feel he’s one day going to win that batting title, if he can just stay healthy.

With the kind of talent we have in front of me and behind me, I should be in a good position to drive in runs and score a lot of runs. All I have to do is stay on the field.

I was on my way to my best season ever when I messed up my groin crashing into walls last year. I really feel good now – once I broke the scar tissue sliding this spring, I was good to go. I don’t even think about the sports hernia surgery I had last winter anymore. I’m ready to get after it.

I think we’re built to win the division. There’s a reason why the Angels have won the AL West three years in a row and five of the past six. These guys know how to compete, how to win. I thought we had a great year last season, considering everything we went through losing Nick Adenhart. We’ll never forget Nick, what he meant to us.

This team has a lot of heart. Our mission this season is to take it all the way. We can’t wait to get started.

 

Getting the feel back right on time

I’m getting there. I’ve broken some scar tissue in the area where I had my sports hernia surgery this winter. It happened when I was sliding on a double in our second Spring Training game. I was concerned at first, but Dr. Lewis Yocum told me it was the normal process. He also told me to be ready, because another time it’s going to pop, a loud one, and I’m going to feel it. But that’s part of the process of breaking that scar tissue.

I’ve been running first to third, no problem. You learn yourself in the spring, what you can do. Veterans like Hideki Matsui, Bobby Abreu, myself, we know how to bring our bodies along. In my 18 years in the game, this is the slowest it’s gone for me this spring, coming back from the surgery. Being a competitor, I want to be out there. But I’m playing a games, taking one off. Pretty soon, with the season coming, I’ll be playing four, five games in a row.

Friday in Maryvale against the Brewers and Sunday at home against the Mariners I had some great at-bats, and that was encouraging. I was getting back to 3-2 counts and coming through with two-strike hits. That’s when I know I’m seeing the ball well, getting my timing down, when I start working counts and get to 3-2.

It’s not about hitting home runs and all that stuff in the spring, especially for veteran guys. It’s more about timing. Bobby, Hideki, guys who have been around, they know what they’re doing. They’ll be ready. The last four or five spring games is when you want to see the ball, get some back spin, hit balls hard. It doesn’t matter if they’re caught as long as you hit them hard.

It’s better in Spring Training to hit a line-drive out than bloop one in for a hit. If I’m hitting .300 and don’t feel like myself, it doesn’t accomplish anything. If I’m hitting .250 but driving the ball and feeling comfortable, seeing the ball well, I’m good with that. Numbers and records don’t count in the spring. It’s all about how you feel, not what you do.

In April, of course, all that changes. You want every hit you can get, any way you get it. That’s when the real Angels will show up, ready to defend our AL West title.

It’s different when you’re a guy trying to make an impression, trying to make the ballclub. Then results count. It’s like Mike Ryan. He’s having a great spring, with the bat and in the field, but it doesn’t surprise me.

I’ve known him for a long time, going back to our days in Minnesota with the Twins. Mike’s been that guy his whole career who has come to Spring Training ready to go. He hits .300 in the spring with a couple home runs. He’s always pumped and ready to go.

Mike can play the infield or the outfield. He’s familiar with all those positions. He can flat-out hit. He’s always got a plan what to do up there, and he executes it. I don’t know how it’ll turn out, but if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, he’ll keep working in the Minors and be ready if he gets the call. He’s that kind of guy.

 

 

Hangin with Hideki and friends

The first workout of Spring Training never changes. You just want to get through it. You know you’re going to be a little sore the next day, and you’re just happy to get it out of the way. Every player can tell you that.

No matter how many sprints you do or how hard you work out in the gym in the offseason, baseball shape is totally different. Today felt like all first days do, like you didn’t do a thing in the offseason. And I really worked hard coming off my sports hernia surgery after Thanksgiving. After six to eight weeks, I didn’t feel it anymore and was able to go out, do sprints, do a lot of lifting.  I started running hard on Jan. 5, so I’m in good shape. Even so, you still feel it on the first day.

All in all, it went well. I felt pretty good swinging the bat and moving around in the outfield. No problems at all with the groin. Didn’t even think about it, really.

It was good to be out there, in the Arizona sun, hanging out with the guys, taking some swings, getting the kinks out. I spent some time with Hideki Matsui, talking in the outfield, and that was fun. I’m really excited to be playing with a guy who’s a legend back home in Japan, Godzilla of the Yomiuri Giants. He’s an Angel now, and I think he’s going to like it here.

The Quiet Assassin, that’s what I think I’ll call Matsui.

I’ll miss Vladimir Guerrero, one of the greatest guys I’ve ever played with, but I think Matsui can really help us. He’s one of the quietest clutch hitters in the game. When I was with the Twins and he came to the Yankees in 2003, 2004, he came up with so many clutch hits against us. I got tired of chasing all those balls he hit.

He has great balance, a smooth, easy swing. You can see why he hits lefties so well with that balance. He stays in and stays on the ball. He’s going to be a good fit in our lineup. We’ve got some guys who can drive the ball, including Brandon Wood. I’m not worried about Brandon. He sits right next to me here, and he’s cool. He’s got some serious power and can handle the glove like a pro. This isn’t his first rodeo. He knows his way around.  

Matsui hit one ball over the wall in right in batting practice, and I was kidding around with him, telling him not to hit my car. It was parked out that way. I might have to move it over a little.

I keep saying I’m going to be more conscious of running into walls after what happened last year, so there I was again, going after a ball against the wall. That’s just me, man. I guess it’s who I am. That’s why they call me Spiderman.

The Japanese media is here in big numbers for Matsui. They’re very polite, very kind and respectful. I appreciate that. They were asking me who’s nicer, Matsui or me. That’s easy, I told them. Matsui is nicer than me. He’s definitely a very good guy. He’s special.

Sometimes I get upset and I’m ready to fight, I told them. I’m a good guy, but when you push my button, I can get mad. Matsui, if you push his button, he still smiles. That’s why he’s nicer than me.

This is going to be very interesting with all these new people around us. They’re here to cover Matsui, but they’re also here to cover baseball. And we plan to put on a good show for our new friends.    

Hangin’ with Hideki and friends

The first workout of Spring Training never changes. You just want to get through it. You know you’re going to be a little sore the next day, and you’re just happy to get it out of the way. Every player can tell you that.

No matter how many sprints you do or how hard you work out in the gym in the offseason, baseball shape is totally different. Today felt like all first days do, like you didn’t do a thing in the offseason. And I really worked hard coming off my sports hernia surgery after Thanksgiving. After six to eight weeks, I didn’t feel it anymore and was able to go out, do sprints, do a lot of lifting.  I started running hard on Jan. 5, so I’m in good shape. Even so, you still feel it on the first day.

All in all, it went well. I felt pretty good swinging the bat and moving around in the outfield. No problems at all with the groin. Didn’t even think about it, really.

It was good to be out there, in the Arizona sun, hanging out with the guys, taking some swings, getting the kinks out. I spent some time with Hideki Matsui, talking in the outfield, and that was fun. I’m really excited to be playing with a guy who’s a legend back home in Japan, Godzilla of the Yomiuri Giants. He’s an Angel now, and I think he’s going to like it here.

The Quiet Assassin, that’s what I think I’ll call Matsui.

I’ll miss Vladimir Guerrero, one of the greatest guys I’ve ever played with, but I think Matsui can really help us. He’s one of the quietest clutch hitters in the game. When I was with the Twins and he came to the Yankees in 2003, 2004, he came up with so many clutch hits against us. I got tired of chasing all those balls he hit.

He has great balance, a smooth, easy swing. You can see why he hits lefties so well with that balance. He stays in and stays on the ball. He’s going to be a good fit in our lineup. We’ve got some guys who can drive the ball, including Brandon Wood. I’m not worried about Brandon. He sits right next to me here, and he’s cool. He’s got some serious power and can handle the glove like a pro. This isn’t his first rodeo. He knows his way around.  

Matsui hit one ball over the wall in right in batting practice, and I was kidding around with him, telling him not to hit my car. It was parked out that way. I might have to move it over a little.

I keep saying I’m going to be more conscious of running into walls after what happened last year, so there I was again, going after a ball against the wall. That’s just me, man. I guess it’s who I am. That’s why they call me Spiderman.

The Japanese media is here in big numbers for Matsui. They’re very polite, very kind and respectful. I appreciate that. They were asking me who’s nicer, Matsui or me. That’s easy, I told them. Matsui is nicer than me. He’s definitely a very good guy. He’s special.

Sometimes I get upset and I’m ready to fight, I told them. I’m a good guy, but when you push my button, I can get mad. Matsui, if you push his button, he still smiles. That’s why he’s nicer than me.

This is going to be very interesting with all these new people around us. They’re here to cover Matsui, but they’re also here to cover baseball. And we plan to put on a good show for our new friends.    

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