Here’s Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, chatting Friday with Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
”I am going to retire an Angel. Next year is my last year, and I’m going to retire an Angel. I’m going to evaluate it this offseason. That’s when I’ll know. It’s 60-40, to the positive, that I’ll keep playing. You don’t want to see your skills diminish. You don’t want to linger.”
In other words, Hunter is leaving his options open. But retirement is a strong possibility if things continue to trend south.
Hunter’s five-year, $90 million contract with the Angels runs out after the 2012 season. If he fails to draw attractive free agent offers that winter, the veteran outfielder will simply hang up his cleats.
Hunter, 36, has been named to four All-Star teams and collected nine straight Gold Glove awards from 2001-2009. But he’s batting just .261/.332/.423 across 555 plate appearances this year and was bumped from center field at the end of the 2010 season by the more defensively adept Peter Bourjos.
The writing is on the wall, and it sounds like Hunter would prefer to go out with his head held high.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.