Results tagged ‘ Mike Napoli ’

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.

 

Abreu, another Gold Glove and charity golf

I just got into Arizona to host a charity golf event, and I figured it was a good time to catch up.

First off, I want to say I’m really happy we signed my buddy Bobby Abreu to come back and play for the Angels. I’ll get to pick his brain some more now. Bobby’s so smart, and so valuable. He can hit in a lot of places in the lineup, and he’s a great leader, sharing all his knowledge and wisdom. He also cracks everybody up with his sense of humor, and you need that over a long season.

I spoke with Chone Figgins a few days ago, but we didn’t talk about his free agency situation. I know he’ll do what’s right for him and his family. Chone’s a smart guy. I was eating some red beans and rice, and he said he was hungry. That guy loves his red beans and rice.

I got word today that I won my ninth straight Rawlings Gold Glove, and that’s always a thrill. What makes it so meaningful is that it’s voted on by the managers and coaches, the men who know what’s really going on out there. Much respect from them is important to me, because they recognize all the things that go into being a good defensive player, like hitting the cutoff man, throwing to the right base, backing up guys along with making all the routine plays – and some spectacular ones.

I was disappointed my teammates, Figgy and Erick Aybar, didn’t win their first Gold Gloves. Both those guys were deserving. They worked so hard and had tremendous seasons, defensively and offensively. Those are two of the premier athletes in the game, with great speed and quickness and strong arms. Their time will come.

I thought I was having my best season when I injured my groin running into walls first at Dodger Stadium and then in San Francisco. Missing all those games, 32, that really hurt. When I came back, my groin was sore for another month or so, but I’m not second-guessing what I did. I play the game all out. You can’t worry about getting hurt.

I’m really looking forward to staying healthy next season and putting up some good numbers and helping us to get to our ultimate goal this time, the World Series. We were so close . . . but the Yankees beat us fair and square in the ALCS, and they showed how good they were winning the World Series.  

I like to relax as much as I can after a long season, but there are things to take care of, too. The Torii Hunter Celebrity Golf Classic I’m hosting will benefit schools and kids in need the next two days at the Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino.

Justin Upton of the Diamondbacks and his brother, B.J., of the Rays also are here helping out, and we’ve got a lot of big names showing up. Benefits will go to The Torii Hunter Project, The Heart of a Champion Foundation, Teleos Preparatory Academy in Phoenix and Sacaton Middle School on the Gila River Indian Reservation.

Tonight we have a gourmet dinner and a performance by Brian McKnight, a great recording artist. On Wednesday, we’ll have an exclusive pre-round golf clinic hosted by former PGA Tour professionals and golf TV analysts Gary McCord and David Feherty. Golfers, sponsors and some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment will then hit the course for a round of golf at The Whirlwind Golf Club at Wild Horse Pass.

Tonight’s emcee is Harold Reynolds, the former second baseman now doing TV commentary. We’re looking forward to having some of my teammates – Joe Saunders, Howard Kendrick, Jason Bulger, Mike Napoli and Scott Kazmir – along with my old buddy David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Darryl Strawberry, Nick Swisher, Derrek Lee, Tony Clark, Eddie Murray, Chris Young, Don Baylor, Kenny Lofton, Mark Grace and many others.

If you want to know more about the Torii Hunter Celebrity Golf Classic or to purchase tickets, call (480) 245-7177 or visit www.toriihunter.com.

I hope all my fans and fans everywhere have a great offseason. I’ll stay in touch now and then. Take good care of yourselves and your families.

 

Feeling good and staying hungry

We’re going to Boston feeling good about being up 2-0, but we’re staying hungry. We won’t be satisfied until this is over. We’re going to enjoy these two wins, but we know how dangerous the Red Sox are, and we’ve got a job to finish now.

So many guys came through in this second game, but you have to start with Jered Weaver. Man, he was dealing. I’ve got a great view out in center field, and he was on his game, just like John Lackey in Game 1. Weaver’s been doing it all season, and he really brought it out on the big stage. And that was great to see, after the way he’s performed all year long for us.

We’re having fun, playing our game. It’s something we’re talking about. Let’s have fun and let our God-given ability take place.

toriiblog.jpg

Josh Beckett is a big-game pitcher, one of the best. It’s not easy to beat a guy like Beckett. His ball was moving, like usual, but we had some great at-bats and scored some runs.

How about Vladimir Guerrero, going the other way for a big hit and then drawing that walk to get our seventh inning started. We were having a lot of fun with Vladdy over that. The big man really came through. He’s a Hall of Famer.

Then Howard Kendrick comes in to run for Vladdy and steals a big bag. Beckett’s quick over to first, so it’s not easy to run on him. Howie got a nice jump and beat it cleanly. Then Maicer Izturis, who hadn’t even played for about a week, walks up and does what he does – he slammed that huge base-hit to center field for the lead.

Maicer is one of those quiet guys people don’t pay much attention to, but he can play the game. He does it all, and he’s a guy you want up there in a big situation, because he’s so cool.

Big Mike Napoli goes old school and takes a pitch in the back, and that keeps it going. And then Erick Aybar — what a season he’s had — he goes up and crushes that ball to center field, and he’s flying to third base. That’s the way we play the game, hard, aggressively. Aybar’s not scared. He loves to compete.

We know all about the Red Sox. Those guys are not going to let up. They’ve been down before and come back. We can enjoy this now, but starting Sunday, forget that and go out and play the game.

The next one is at noon on Sunday, East Coast time, and we’ve got a day to get adjusted and be ready. I might have a cup of coffee before that one. Hopefully, we’ll all get some good sleep and be ready to go.

 

 

Were alive — and dangerous

torripickupgupball550x250.jpg

We’re alive and kicking. That’s all we asked for, one win to keep us going. We’ve got a heartbeat, and like I said all along, as long as this team has life — as long as we’ve got innings, pitches, a pulse — we’re dangerous.

Let’s get the play that cost us three runs out of the way first. It was my fault; put it all on me. I should have gotten there, called off Howie Kendrick and caught that ball. We haven’t had a single ball fall like that, in that spot, all season — and it happens in a game we have to win. But you’ve got to move on, let it go. That’s what I told Howie between innings. It was in a tough spot. I was shading Jacoby Ellsbury toward left-center, and Howie had a long way to go. But it’s my turf out there, and I should have made the play.

It’s kind of strange, really. I didn’t make an error all season, and the other night in Anaheim in Game 2, Mark Kotsay hit a ball to me that was acting like a knuckleball, and it went off my glove. It’s crazy. But you can’t let things like that get you down. Not in this game, when you play every day. You’re tested all the time.

I love how our guys responded in this game, playing big when it counted. Our young guys have come alive. They’ve gotten over their anxieties and trying to do too much, and they’re settling in and just playing now. Erick Aybar got that big hit for the winning run. Howie got a couple of knocks and put down that bunt after Mike Napoli’s single in the 12th inning. Man, Napoli was incredible. That guy is so strong. He was swinging from the heels in the first game, but tonight he was smart, taking good swings. He’s so strong, he can hit it out without a big swing.

toriismiling275x375.jpg

Reporters are asking me why I tried to stretch that single in the ninth inning. I hit it down the line, and from what I saw, it was going to take a great play to throw me out. If Jason Bay doesn’t put it where he did — if it’s a little wide either side of the bag — I’m at second with nobody out, and we’re in business. I was hustling, going for it, and a guy threw me out with a good throw. It happens.

That’s six straight games we’ve won at Fenway Park. One more and we’re going home with a chance to go to the ALCS. Hey, I’m not getting ahead of myself here. We know all about Boston, how dangerous those guys are. But we’re dangerous, too. They know that. You don’t get beat six straight times in your own house and not have some respect for that other team.

We really like playing here. The fans are great, the park is great. It’s intense, and I think we thrive on that.

I’ve got a lot of confidence in big John Lackey going against Jon Lester in Game 4. Lackey comes after you and pounds that strike zone. I love that. He keeps his guys in the game. I think we’ll have a better idea with Lester the second time around, especially the younger guys who were still new to all of this.

You learn a lot about yourself as you go through these postseason games. I love how our guys have responded. Nobody got down after losing the first two. We stayed cool, stayed supportive of each other. That’s how you win in October, by hanging together, playing hard and smart, making good things happen.

We’re alive. We’re kicking. Now we just want to keep it going and bring this series back home to our fans — and our Rally Monkey. No more talks about losing streaks, no more negativity, please. That monkey is off our backs.

toriicaughtstealing550x250.jpg

We’re alive — and dangerous

torripickupgupball550x250.jpg

We’re alive and kicking. That’s all we asked for, one win to keep us going. We’ve got a heartbeat, and like I said all along, as long as this team has life — as long as we’ve got innings, pitches, a pulse — we’re dangerous.

Let’s get the play that cost us three runs out of the way first. It was my fault; put it all on me. I should have gotten there, called off Howie Kendrick and caught that ball. We haven’t had a single ball fall like that, in that spot, all season — and it happens in a game we have to win. But you’ve got to move on, let it go. That’s what I told Howie between innings. It was in a tough spot. I was shading Jacoby Ellsbury toward left-center, and Howie had a long way to go. But it’s my turf out there, and I should have made the play.

It’s kind of strange, really. I didn’t make an error all season, and the other night in Anaheim in Game 2, Mark Kotsay hit a ball to me that was acting like a knuckleball, and it went off my glove. It’s crazy. But you can’t let things like that get you down. Not in this game, when you play every day. You’re tested all the time.

I love how our guys responded in this game, playing big when it counted. Our young guys have come alive. They’ve gotten over their anxieties and trying to do too much, and they’re settling in and just playing now. Erick Aybar got that big hit for the winning run. Howie got a couple of knocks and put down that bunt after Mike Napoli’s single in the 12th inning. Man, Napoli was incredible. That guy is so strong. He was swinging from the heels in the first game, but tonight he was smart, taking good swings. He’s so strong, he can hit it out without a big swing.

toriismiling275x375.jpg

Reporters are asking me why I tried to stretch that single in the ninth inning. I hit it down the line, and from what I saw, it was going to take a great play to throw me out. If Jason Bay doesn’t put it where he did — if it’s a little wide either side of the bag — I’m at second with nobody out, and we’re in business. I was hustling, going for it, and a guy threw me out with a good throw. It happens.

That’s six straight games we’ve won at Fenway Park. One more and we’re going home with a chance to go to the ALCS. Hey, I’m not getting ahead of myself here. We know all about Boston, how dangerous those guys are. But we’re dangerous, too. They know that. You don’t get beat six straight times in your own house and not have some respect for that other team.

We really like playing here. The fans are great, the park is great. It’s intense, and I think we thrive on that.

I’ve got a lot of confidence in big John Lackey going against Jon Lester in Game 4. Lackey comes after you and pounds that strike zone. I love that. He keeps his guys in the game. I think we’ll have a better idea with Lester the second time around, especially the younger guys who were still new to all of this.

You learn a lot about yourself as you go through these postseason games. I love how our guys have responded. Nobody got down after losing the first two. We stayed cool, stayed supportive of each other. That’s how you win in October, by hanging together, playing hard and smart, making good things happen.

We’re alive. We’re kicking. Now we just want to keep it going and bring this series back home to our fans — and our Rally Monkey. No more talks about losing streaks, no more negativity, please. That monkey is off our backs.

toriicaughtstealing550x250.jpg

Time to get busy, not down

hunterreverseswinging550x25.jpgThis one was hard to take. I felt like we were ready to take it to the Red Sox, to play our game, and we didn’t get it done. Jon Lester was tough, man. Sometimes you have to give a guy credit. He was dealing some nasty stuff, and we couldn’t get the big hit when we needed it.

Big John Lackey was on his game, too. John deserved better. We should have scored more runs for him early when we had chances. It’s frustrating for everybody, but we have to get it out of our system and come out with the right attitude for Game 2 on Friday. You’ve got to have amnesia in this game. Hopefully, some of the younger guys can let this one go. This is still new to some of the guys, and they have to come out and play with the same fire and energy and confidence they had all season.

Maybe it helps, having the day off between games. Maybe we can use it to get rid of this game. We have to do that. We have too many good athletes in this room to get down on ourselves. We played great baseball all season, and there’s no reason why we can’t pick it up against Daisuke Matsuzaka and get back in this series.

I feel good having Ervin Santana out there for us. He’s been lights out all year. This kid has great stuff, some of the best stuff in the game. We all have confidence in him, and we’re going to get busy and get him some run support.

In the playoffs, one thing you can’t do is let something take the edge away from you. That might have happened when Vladimir Guerrero got thrown out trying to go to third when I hit that blooper over first base. He didn’t know it was going to fall in, so he hesitated for a second. I was surprised he kept going, but he was trying to be aggressive, make something happen.

hunterfollowthrough275x375.jpgVladdy is a great player, an all-time great player. He’ll bounce back. You don’t do what he’s done over his career without having the ability to shake something like this off. He was swinging the bat good, hitting some shots, so that’s a good sign. We have to focus on the positives now, not get caught up in the negatives. That can take you down if you’re not careful.

I was saying before the game that this reminds me of high school football, Friday night lights. I had all that adrenaline going for this game — I didn’t need any coffee, I can tell you that. My eyes were huge tonight. The key in big games like this is to use all that energy to your advantage, to take it to the other team. You’ve got to play the game with all your heart and soul, and you can’t be second-guessing yourself about things. Go with your instincts, let it flow.

We know who we’re facing here. These guys, the Red Sox, are the champions. You can’t just play them. You’ve got to beat those guys, take it to them. They’re not going to let you have it.

I think this was a good experience for the young guys, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, Mike Napoli. We’ve got veterans, but we’ve also got these young guys, and they’re learning about themselves. They got the first game in, and now they can go out and play. These guys have a ton of talent. We saw that all season. They’ve just got to trust their instincts and let all that talent flow.

We’re coming to play in Game 2. Friday night lights. We’ve got to go after it with everything we’ve got. We’ve got to take it to those guys.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.