Vlad is back at Big A with great num­bers

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - — From wire re­ports

ANA­HEIM, Calif. — The Los An­ge­les An­gels had Vladimir Guer­rero in their lineup for six sea­sons, win­ning five AL West ti­tles with him be­fore los­ing him to the di­vi­sion ri­val Texas Rangers as a free agent. They re­placed him with for­mer Yan­kee and 2009 World Se­ries MVP Hideki Mat­sui.

Guer­rero, the 2004 AL MVP, is hav­ing a much bet­ter sea­son than Mat­sui with 20 home runs, 75 RBIs and a .319 av­er­age. As a re­sult he is in his ninth All-Star game as the AL’s start­ing des­ig­nated hit­ter. New team­mate Josh Hamil­ton says a change of scenery had some­thing to do with it.

“I think it helps re­vive you as a player,” Hamil­ton said. “When you’ve been in a place for a long time, things just start be­com­ing a rou­tine and you might lose a lit­tle bit of pas­sion. When you go some­where else, you want to show these guys what you can do and you get re­vi­tal­ized a lit­tle bit.’’

For­mer Ha­los team­mate Torii Hunter missed not hav­ing that fa­mil­iar “Su­per­man” Tshirt around the club­house.

“Noth­ing both­ered him,” Hunter said. “He was al­ways smil­ing and jok­ing in the club­house. The guys could joke with him and he didn’t get up­set.

“He worked his butt off in the off­sea­son and lost a lot a lot of weight and got the strength back in his knees and his back, and now you’re see­ing what he can do. A healthy Vladdy is scary. I’ve seen it. So what he’s do­ing now is noth­ing new.” Rangers slug­ger Vladimir Guer­rero, now a nine-time All-Star, has sur­prised many with a .319 av­er­age and 20 home runs.

“It’s go­ing to be weird, this be­ing my first one,’’ he said. “I hope there’s some­thing they can do to change it up a bit so that this doesn’t hap­pen again.’’

“Barry Bonds steps to the plate in the first in­ning, I’m in cen­ter field, and I was like: ‘Please don’t hit it to me. Please don’t hit it to me.’ And then, Bam,” the nine-time Gold Glove win­ner re­called. “I saw that it was com­ing down, I thought I had a chance, and I went up and caught it.

“(Right fielder) Ichiro (Suzuki) was pretty ex­cited, too, and he said some words I didn’t think he knew,” Hunter said with a grin. “I didn’t know he spoke that kind of English. It was rated ‘R.’ Then I ran in and Barry was wait­ing for me. Be­fore that, we had never spo­ken or had any kind of en­counter. But Barry picked me up and put me on his shoul­der like a rag doll — he was strong as hell — and told me, ‘Nice catch, kid.’

The An­gels’ PR staff did some re­search with Hunter’s help a while back and es­ti­mated that he has pulled back at least 35 home run bids by op­pos­ing play­ers with the An­gels and Min­nesota Twins.

Rose Palmisano

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