Hunter to return during crucial road trip

Hunter to return during crucial road trip

ANAHEIM -- Although it's a grueling 10-game road trip that starts on Friday and takes the Angels from Baltimore to Cleveland to Toronto with no days off in between, it's also a chance for the Angels to separate themselves from the pack, as all three opponents currently have losing records.

But Angels manager Mike Scioscia knows that his club won't be taking any of those three lightly.

"As far as playing teams that are scuffling, you still have to bring a level of baseball that's the same whether you're playing a team that's hot or playing under .500," Scioscia said. "Teams can get hot in a hurry and win games. Any team can go out there and put up runs and shut you down."

The Angels open the road trip on Friday against the Orioles, a club they have fared well against this season.

Los Angeles is 5-1 against Baltimore, batting .314 during those six games. The Angels have also historically played well against the Orioles, winning each of the past five season series against them.

And even more, the Angels appear set to get a huge boost with the return of center fielder Torii Hunter, who is likely to rejoin the club in time for Saturday's game after being on the disabled list since July 10 because of a strained adductor muscle on his right side.

Hunter, who was batting .305 with 17 home runs and 65 RBIs in 77 games before his injury, will join a lineup that currently leads the Majors in batting average and is second in runs scored.

"We're very excited to see how are guys are going to fit in," Scioscia said. "We've had a lot of guys play well in the absence of Vlad [Guerrero] and Torii. So that's what we're looking forward to."

For now, Scioscia still hasn't decided where Hunter will bat when he returns, but it seems likely he'll be back at his usual spots of batting either third or fourth.

"We're going to shuffle some things around, but getting Torii anywhere in our lineup is a good thing," Scioscia said. "Getting Torii to swing like he was is the key issue."

Pitching matchup
LAA: RHP Jered Weaver (12-3, 3.73 ERA)
Matching his career high with 11 strikeouts and posting back-to-back double-digit-punchout performances, Weaver showed in 7 1/3 dominant innings against the Rangers on Saturday that he's back in first-half form, easing concerns about the Angels' unstable rotation. Weaver walked only one man and yielded five hits, getting two strikeouts in four consecutive innings. The two runs he allowed came on back-to-back pitches in the fifth, when Hank Blalock unloaded a two-run homer. Weaver is 2-1 with a 1.71 ERA in three career outings against the Orioles, having struck out 16 and walked four in 21 innings.

BAL: RHP Chris Tillman (0-0, 5.19 ERA)
On Saturday, Tillman came up with his best performance in three Major League starts but recorded another no-decision in a game the Orioles eventually lost to the Blue Jays, 3-2, in 10 innings at Rogers Centre. Tillman pitched into the seventh inning for the first time, going 6 2/3 frames. He gave up two runs on four hits and issued three walks against four strikeouts. The right-hander allowed one home run, a second-inning blast by right fielder Alex Rios that scored the only two runs Tillman allowed. Tillman has never faced the Angels.

Tidbits
Angels infielder Maicer Izturis, who was hit by a pitch on his right arm by Rays left-hander David Price in the fourth inning on Tuesday, was out of the lineup on Wednesday but available to pinch-run. Scioscia said Izturis should be ready to play by Friday. ... Hunter went 0-for-2 in his first rehab start with Class A Rancho Cucamonga on Tuesday.

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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FSW

On radio
• KLAA 830, KFWB, KWKW 1330 (Español)

Up next
• Saturday: Angels (John Lackey, 7-5, 3.88) at Orioles (Brian Matusz, 1-1, 7.04), 4:05 p.m. PT
• Sunday: Angels (Sean O'Sullivan, 3-1, 5.12) at Orioles (Jeremy Guthrie, 7-12, 5.43), 10:35 a.m. PT
• Monday: Angels (Ervin Santana, 5-6, 6.38) at Orioles (David Hernandez, 4-4, 3.81), 4:05 p.m. PT

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.