About two weeks ago, on May 14, Torii Hunter had his focus ripped away from baseball. While in the clubhouse getting ready for that day’s game, the news broke on the television that Hunter’s son had been arrested back in Hunter’s offseason home of Prosper, Texas. Torii left the team immediately, the team placing Hunter on the restricted list and called up Ryan Langerhans to take his place. No timetable was set for Hunter to return to the team, and Hunter said he would stay in Texas until the legal matter of his son’s arrest was “under control.”
Things have officially gotten under control for Hunter and his family. The family’s lawyer has released a statement saying they have evidence of the victim recanting her accusation against Hunter’s son, the family is returning to a sense of “normal,” and Hunter felt his wife and lawyer could handle things from here, and he has officially returned to his second family.
On Monday, Hunter was in uniform and in the clubhouse for the first time since news of his son’s arrest broke. He caught the ceremonial first pitch during the Memorial Day celebration, but the team did not activate their veteran outfielder. The Angels plan on getting Hunter onto the active roster in the next day or so.
During Hunter’s absence, the Angels have been forced to use a patchwork outfield alignment that has seen seven different players log time in the Halo outfield, including an emergency appearance by Howie Kendrick in left. Vernon Wells suffered a thumb injury that will keep him out until August, and Hunter’s replacement Langerhans is out with a shoulder injury, which forced the team to go with their “outfield of the future” lineup of Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos, and Mark Trumbo while calling up Kole Calhoun to act as the team’s fourth outfielder.
With Hunter coming back, he will fall right back into his familiar role he enjoyed as a clubhouse leader and gold-glove caliber defender. He was enjoying a pretty good first month at the plate, but was mired in a slump before taking his leave. He’ll find himself as the eldest member of the outfield corps (by far), and will be asked to mentor some very talented youth (emphasis on the youth).
So what does this mean for the Angels? They’ve morphed into the hottest team in baseball winning seven in a row using their young outfield lineup, including Trumbo taking the majority of the starts in right field. With Hunter back, Trumbo won’t get the every day start in right, so how will Mike Scioscia shuffle the outfield? Hunter in right, Trout in center, Trumbo in left, displacing Bourjos again? And what happens with the talented and useful Calhoun? And who gets optioned back to Salt Lake?
While the team is excited about Hunter’s return, and fans and teammates will welcome him back with open arms, bringing him back into the fold will force the Angels to answer some tough questions as they try and keep this hot streak going.