Hunter to hit .300 for first time in his career

Hunter to hit .300 for first time in his career

Hunter to hit .300 for first time in his career
SEATTLE -- Torii Hunter isn't as young or athletic as he once was. But 2012, his age-37 season and his 16th year in the big leagues, may be one of his finest campaigns yet. Hunter may end up with his first Gold Glove in right field (10th overall), and he's already a lock to finish with a batting average above .300 for the first time.

With seven hits in Sunday's doubleheader split against the Rangers, Hunter put his batting average at .313 heading into Monday night's series opener against the Mariners. If he goes 0-for-5 in each of these last three regular-season games, his batting average would still be at .304. If the Angels play a tiebreaker and he goes 0-for-5 there, he'd finish at .302.

"Individually, it's a great goal, it's a great thing for me, but everybody's main goal is to win the World Series, and that's really what I want to do," Hunter said. "But .300 is special."

Hunter's batting average is way up from the .274 he averaged from 1999 to 2011, but his home run total (16) will be his lowest since 2005, when he hit 14 while playing in only 98 games. In his previous 13 seasons, Hunter averaged 22 per year.

He's just a different hitter these days.

Going back to the second half of last season, Hunter made a conscious effort to shorten up his swing and go gap-to-gap, rather than trying to hit the ball out of the ballpark like he did as a middle-of-the-order hitter with the Twins.

Since being placed in the No. 2 spot on June 8, Hunter has posted a .340/.384/.475 slash line. Since the All-Star break, he leads the AL with a .350 batting average. And in 27 September games, he hit .346 with 26 RBIs.

But Hunter backdates his surge at the plate to May 29, when he returned from the restricted list after spending more than a couple of weeks in Texas dealing with his son's sexual-assault case.

"When I came back, I was kind of upset and motivated to do something," Hunter said. "Baseball was my safe haven. I could let all my frustration go on the field."

Hunter won nine straight Gold Gloves as a center fielder from 2001-09. But this year, Angels manager Mike Scioscia has been touting him for the Gold Glove in right field, the position he switched to midway through 2010.

That'll be up to the coaches and managers of the AL, who vote on the award and can't select a player from their own team.

"I know I should get that," Hunter said. "But, it's up to those guys. If they don't want me to have it, that's fine."