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07/08/09 9:40 PM ET
Hunter hoping to avoid stint on DL
Angels center fielder continues to battle right groin injury
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- As he waited on official word of a muscle strain in the right groin area, hoping an MRI showed nothing structurally wrong, Torii Hunter made it clear he wasn't comfortable with the idea of having to go on the disabled list, if that's his fate. It would mean taking him out of the Angels' lineup for at least 11 games and out of the All-Star Game, the players having voted him onto the American League roster. Winning games, earning his money and entertaining fans are all uncommonly important to the club's center fielder and emotional lightning rod. "I'm not the guy who goes on the DL, and I don't want to do it now," said Hunter, who was replaced in center field by Gary Matthews Jr. for Wednesday night's series finale against the Rangers. "It took a broken [left] ankle when I went on in 2005 [while playing for the Twins] going after a ball in that triangle at Fenway Park." That was a season-ending injury on July 30. Hunter visited the DL three other times while with the Twins: in June 2006 (stress fracture, left foot); April 2004 (strained right hamstring) and April 2001 (strained right groin, the injured area now). "They're calling it an adductor strain, but it might be more than that," Hunter said. "They could find a tear, and that would be very bad. That's not me, not my style. I don't get hurt like that." Hunter was waiting to hear Dr. Lewis Yocum's diagnosis of the MRI. The team's orthopedist, Yocum was in surgery on Wednesday afternoon. "He's sore in the same area he felt last week," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Hunter, who was out of the lineup for the sixth time this season. "We'll see how it sets up in a day or two and evaluate it. For Torii not to be able to go is significant." When he was unable to get down the first-base line to beat out a ground ball that became a double play in Tuesday night's 8-5 loss to the Rangers, Hunter's frustration peaked. "I was [upset] about that double play," he said. "I beat that out if I'm all right." He's in the midst of the best season of his career, batting .305 with team-highs in homers (17), RBIs (65) and slugging (.558) while playing errorless center field in pursuit of a ninth consecutive Rawlings Gold Glove. But a couple of collisions with walls have put him in this position. The initial collision came at Dodger Stadium on May 22, in a 3-1 victory. Crashing into a wall in San Francisco on June 15 with his team leading by eight runs is the one he now regrets. He complaining of whiplash after that game and said he had trouble breathing as he remained on his left side near the wall after the collision. He missed only one game in the aftermath. He remained in the lineup after running into the wall at Dodger Stadium. "That's how I play," Hunter said. "But sometimes you've got to play smart. I'm not 23 anymore. I've got to think about the team, and me making that play in San Francisco in an 8-0 game ... I could have played that one off the wall." With the All-Star break coming up, Hunter said he could go on the 15-day DL -- if absolutely necessary -- and be back on July 23, when the club returns home from a seven-game trip to Oakland and Kansas City. "They said I need rest, and they'd reevaluate it on Friday," Hunter said. "My goal is August, September. That's when it counts. If I'm 80 percent and can't run full-out and break up double plays, I'm no good." Hunter said it moved down from the ribs, where he made heavy impact with the Dodger Stadium wall and again in San Francisco, into the groin, where the pain is now centered. "It's been bothering me since I hit the wall at Dodger Stadium," Hunter said. "I've had treatments and therapy and been able to get out there. But I need to get right. I need to be ready when it really counts."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.