09/13/12 8:40 PM ET
Angels move Hunter to cleanup vs. lefty
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
That began Thursday, when the veteran right fielder batted fourth behind Albert Pujols and the walk-prone Alberto Callaspo hit second against A's southpaw Brett Anderson. With Kendrys Morales getting what manager Mike Scioscia likes to call a "natural" break against a left-handed starter and Mark Trumbo slumping, Hunter is temporarily being thrust back into the spot he spent most of his time at last season.
And with the Angels facing a lefty starter in three of their next four games -- Anderson on Thursday, then the Royals' Bruce Chen on Friday and Will Smith on Sunday -- it could happen more often.
Trumbo, who normally bats cleanup when Morales is out of the lineup, came into Thursday 2-for-24 with 12 strikeouts this month and has only a .289 slugging percentage over his last 47 games. Hunter, meanwhile, has posted a .334/.372/.467 slash line since June 8, but those numbers have come since his ascension to the No. 2 spot.
The risk with Hunter -- part of a lineup that plated a combined seven runs in the first three games of this series -- is taking him out of his comfort zone.
"When you move guys around, you're always concerned," Scioscia said, "but I think the need to get some depth in our lineup behind Albert is critical."
Hunter touts Trout as Gold Glove candidate
ANAHEIM -- At 21 and in his first full season, Mike Trout is basically a lock to be named the American League's Rookie of the Year, and in the eyes of many, he's the favorite to be the youngest Most Valuable Player ever.
Can he also win a Gold Glove?
"Yes," said Torii Hunter, who knows a lot about being a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder but, of course, is quite biased in this case. "Of course, he's only 21, he's still got to learn some things. But the plays he's made this year, from last year to this year, the strides he's made, the changes he's made in the outfield, he's been working on it. As far as Gold Glove, if he gets one, it's going to be deserved."
Fred Lynn (1975 Red Sox) and Ichiro Suzuki (2001 Mariners) are the only players in history to win the Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season, and both of them also won Gold Gloves that year.
The fact that the Gold Glove Award is now specific to each outfield spot may hurt Trout, especially in a league with the Tigers' Austin Jackson, considered by many as the best defensive center fielder among everyday players.
But Trout came into Thursday with the highest Ultimate Zone Rating (9.1) among center fielders that have spent at least 600 innings at the position. The second-place guy, the Twins' Denard Span, has a score of 6.1.
Trout also possesses that awe factor. It comes in the form of the four home runs he's taken away (Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy on June 27, White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham on Aug. 4, Mariners catcher Miguel Olivo on Aug. 11 and Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder on Saturday). And it comes, as is often the case with the Gold Glove, in the form of Trout's superb offensive numbers (.331 batting average, 45 steals, 114 runs and 27 homers).
"Everything's in his favor, I'm telling you," Hunter said. "If we [make the playoffs], I think he racks up all of that. All that individual stuff. But if I know Trout, when I talk to him, it's, 'Let's not worry about that until the time comes.' He's really worried about winning. He wants to win, that's all he wants to do. To get a 21-year-old who's not worried about that individual stuff, that's pretty impressive."
But Hunter is not of the belief that a player on a non-playoff team should win the MVP.
"For me, personally, you can have an outstanding player, but for me, you have to help the team win," Hunter said. "MVP wouldn't be for a losing team."
Haren, Santana present tough calls on options
ANAHEIM -- Two of the Angels' biggest offseason decisions will involve their own starting pitchers, with regard to the upcoming club options for Ervin Santana and Dan Haren.
Santana and Haren have both struggled this year and will be expensive to retain next season, but both have also turned it around lately at a position that's pricier than any other.
Haren has a $15.5 million option for 2013, with a $3.5 million buyout, in a year that has seen him go 10-11 with a 4.45 ERA, battle back problems and lose another tick or two off his fastball. But he's also posted a 1.86 ERA over his last three starts and was arguably baseball's most consistent starter for the previous seven seasons.
Then there's Santana, who has a $13 million option, with a $1 million buyout, coming off a season that has so far seen him go 8-12 with a 5.08 ERA. Santana doesn't have Haren's track record, but his pure stuff is better and his ERA is 3.10 since the start of August.
It's highly unlikely that the Angels will pick up both options, and a person with knowledge of the team's thinking said recently that Haren and Santana are very likely to depart via free agency. But a lot could hinge on what happens with Zack Greinke, the upcoming free agent the Angels want to add to a rotation that has Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Garrett Richards already penciled in for next season.
"I'm not thinking about that right now," Santana said in Spanish. "All I want to do is help the team win and do my job at the same time."
"It is going to be a decision for them," Haren added. "I really have no say in it. It's definitely nothing that's been in my head at all. I just think everything's going to happen for a reason, and whether I'm here this year or somewhere else, I obviously still want to play and I'm still very confident in what I can do. I'd love to come back, but the decision isn't mine. I'll leave that up to them."
Haren, who turns 32 on Monday and is more than two years Santana's senior, would consider restructuring his 2013 option to stay with the Angels, if it comes to that.
"I'm not really looking to get any exorbitant amount," he said. "Whatever's fair, I would do."
At this point, what Haren values most is stability. And his top priority would be to find a way to stay in Anaheim.
"I've been on four teams already, so I know that starting new with a different team sucks, making new friends, and you have to learn new personalities, new catchers," Haren said. "It's not easy."
Maicer Izturis swung a bat Thursday for the first time since exiting Saturday's game with sore left ribs. Scioscia expects him to be ready for Friday's series opener against the Royals.
Albert Pujols was able to retrieve Wednesday's home run ball, which made him the first player in history to hit 30-plus homers in each of his first 12 seasons. In exchange for the ball, Pujols autographed his jersey from the 2010 All-Star Game for the fan who caught it.
On Friday, Angels alumnus Justin Speier, a representative of the U.S. Army and members of the Angels Strike Force will visit three local high schools as part of the Angels Baseball Foundation's Adopt-A-School program. Each presentation will highlight baseball and softball skills along with the benefits of joining the military. Each school will receive $3,650 for their baseball and softball program, courtesy of the Angels Baseball Foundation and the U.S. Army.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.