Results tagged ‘ Twins ’

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.

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.
 

 

An old Cardinals fan, back in St. Louis

This is a special weekend for me. Family members and friends from  my hometown of Pine Bluff, Ark., are coming up to St. Louis to watch me. My mom, uncles and cousins, they’re all coming. Some people who haven’t seen me in a long time are here. Even the doctor who did my arthroscopic knee surgery when I was 16 from football, back in 1992, is going to be here: Dr. John Lytle. It’s great knowing all these people who mean so much to me can see me play.

The Cardinals were my team growing up. My granddad loved the Cardinals, and we’d watch them on TV every chance we got. They were the team everyone in Pine Bluff pulled for, being the closest to us and also for being so good and exciting.

I grew up watching Ozzie Smith and Vince Coleman, Willie McGee and Tommy Herr, all those guys. The Runnin’ Redbirds. They were fun to watch, flying around the bases the way they did. Everywhere you looked in Pine Bluff you saw those red Cardinal caps and T-shirts. I’m wearing a different shade of red now with the Angels, but the Cardinals are a big part of my past.

I’ve always enjoyed Interleague Play and has some success against the National League. It’s fun being in a different environment, playing against guys you didn’t see all the time. Our natural rival with the Twins was Milwaukee, so we saw the Brewers every season.

The last time I played in St. Louis was in the old ballpark in 2001. That series didn’t turn out too well. We got swept in three games. My first trip here, in 1999, was a lot more fun. We won two out of three, and I had hits in all three games, a couple of doubles, an RBI.

Playing here is a thrill when you think about all the Cardinals history. They’ve had some great center fielders, from Curt Flood to Willie McGee, who was one of my favorites, to Ray Lankford to Jim Edmonds. Flood is one of the real historical figures of the game from a player’s standpoint. Because of his impact on free agency, he helped create a whole new world of opportunities for guys like myself who came along behind him. On top of that, he was a tremendous center fielder, one of the best ever.

Now the big man here is Albert Pujols. I have to admit I’m looking forward to watching him play. He doesn’t know it, but I’ll be studying everything he does. He’s one of the greatest hitters of our time — of all-time, actually.

I hang out with him during the offseason with his work for the fight against juvenile diabetes, and I like the guy. Even though we’re rivals now, trying to beat each other, I get a chance to watch him hit. No matter how long you play this game, you can pick up things from different guys – and he’s one of the best to study. That man knows how to hit.

Time to go to work now. We won two in Chicago against the White Sox, and we’re trying to build some momentum, get this thing going in the right direction. I’m hoping we can put on a good show for everybody this weekend – especially my mom and family, of course.

 

       

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 protégé. 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.

 

 

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.    

Hernia surgery a success!

What a day! I had surgery to repair a hernia on my right side and was in the hospital for eight hours. My wife, Katrina, picked me up and drove me home, and it’s a good thing. I’ll sleep well tonight.

The surgery was a success. I did my homework when I found out what needed to be done, and I’m really happy to get this taken care of, so I can move on and play without this pain next year. Dr. John Priskett performed the surgery at Baylor University Hospital, and he assured me everything went right. That’s great news.

Whatever was wrong in there, it’s fixed now. It already feels great. I’ll have six to eight weeks of rehab, starting with some light bike work, cardio, and gradually picking up to where I’ll be able to work out in mid-January. That will have me ready for Spring Training.

I’m really excited by what Dr. Priskett told me. It was a low-risk, high-reward surgery. The long-term gain is significant. He said, “You’re going to feel way better, and you’ll play better.” That was music to my ears.
 
He said that once you have this surgery, it never bothers you anymore. No more hernias for me. The only way I’d hurt my other side is compensating for the right side, and that won’t happen, because the right side is strong again. So I’ll be good to go.

This was my first surgery since 1995 when I had my right knee operated on. My body has been good to me, allowing me to play a lot of baseball, all out, for the Twins in Minnesota and now with the Angels.

I look back on the season, and so many things happened. We lost Nick Adenhart, a teammate and friend, and we mourned and prayed and had to go on and play the season. We did that with passion and purpose, in Nick’s honor. It was a great team, one I’ll always remember.

For me, the team and Major League Baseball, it was a good year. I think about it all the time. I was on my way to my best season when I got hurt running into walls. The one at Dodger Stadium on May 22, when I caught my buddy Matt Kemp’s drive against the wall, I was hurting after that. Then I did it again in San Francisco on June 15, and that messed me up some more.

If I had played the whole season, I could have had 120-plus ribbies, 30-plus homers, scored 100 runs. It was great winning the Silver Slugger Award, but I know I could have done much more.

I knew on that Sunday in Arizona on June 28 that something was really wrong, when I sat at the locker after the game and couldn’t move. I was so disappointed that day, knowing I was hurt, but not knowing how bad it was.

I tried to play through it but had to go on the disabled list on July 10 with the adductor strain, and it cost me 32 games. When I came back, I still had some pain but I had to be there for my team, so I played the best I could. We took it to Game 6 in the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium after sweeping the Red Sox in Boston. That was an amazing experience.

It’s like I kept saying, adrenaline is a pain-killer. But it was a temporary solution. There are some things you can’t play through, and sometimes you have to go in and get something taken care of.

I want to thank all the fans who have expressed concern and shown me so much support over the years. I’m a lucky guy to have a great family and so many people care about me. I’m looking forward to taking it easy for a while, going on some dates with my wife and spending time with our sons.

Next thing we know, it will be February, and we’ll be playing baseball again in the sun in Arizona. I can’t wait to take another run at a championship.

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