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Hunter returns to Angel Stadium with Tigers

Saturday - 4/20/2013, 2:58am  ET

Detroit Tigers' Torii Hunter connects for a triple off Oakland Athletics' Evan Scribner in the sixth inning of a baseball game, Sunday, April 14, 2013, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Associated Press

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Torii Hunter's return to Angel Stadium was everything he wanted it to be -- except for the final score.

Hunter was 2 for 4 with a walk, his 12th multihit game of the season, but the Detroit Tigers lost 8-1 to the Angels on Friday night. He singled his first time up against Tommy Hanson, then doubled with two out in the ninth off rookie Dane De La Rosa and scored on a single by Miguel Cabrera.

"I wasn't going to be the last man standing up there," Hunter said. "I just told myself, 'Hey, this is the perfect scenario: I come home, and now I'm the last guy to come up to the plate.' So I told myself, 'Hey, let's do it.' I was able to get a nice little hit down the line, and Cabrera drove me in. We didn't want to get shut out. I wanted to try to make something happen."

Hunter received a loud ovation from the crowd of 39,023, along with a personal "Thank you" message on the right field video board when he stepped into the batter's box, then felt compelled to step back out and doff his helmet.

"It was awesome. It got so loud, you have to tip your cap and acknowledge the fact for the respect they gave me," Hunter said. "I just came to play the game hard and tried to treat people like I wanted to be treated. I was very respectful to the fans and the organization, and I guess that's the testament -- a standing ovation."

Manager Jim Leyland also enjoyed the treatment his new right fielder and No. 2 hitter got.

"They should. I mean, obviously, he's the ultimate professional," Leyland said. "He did a great job here for the Angels, he did a great job for the Twins and he's doing a great job for the Tigers. He a true baseball player, grinding it out right until the last out no matter what the score it. Everybody who's ever managed him is proud of him, and certainly I'm no exception to that."

Hunter wanted to end his playing career with the Los Angeles Angels. General manager Jerry Dipoto had other ideas, electing not to offer him a contract extension at age 37 after he batted .313 with 16 home runs and 92 RBIs in 2012.

The Halos instead went after free agent and longtime Angels nemesis Josh Hamilton, signing the 2010 AL MVP to a five-year, $125 million deal in December -- a month after Hunter inked a two-year, $26 million contract with Detroit.

Through the first 15 games of the season, Hamilton is batting .200 with eight RBIs -- one fewer than Hunter, who is hitting a league-best .418.

"I'm picking up right where I left off and carrying it over. Last year I hit pretty well in the second half, and I'm just doing the same thing now. I cut my swing down like I did last year and I'm making good contact."

The four-time All-Star, who turns 38 on July 15, had been the face of the Angels' franchise along with Jered Weaver since signing a five-year, $90 million contract in November 2007. So his departure has been an adjustment period for everyone.

"It was tough, man, because everybody knew I wanted to stay," said Hunter, who entered this series two home runs shy of 300.

Hunter had spurned a three-year, $45 million offer from Minnesota, the team he began his big league career with in 1997, to come to Anaheim and join a club that was coming off its third division title in a four-year span.

"I grew up in Minnesota, I learned a lot about the game there, and that was my first group of fans. So I have a love for those guys there," Hunter said. "But here, these guys adopted me and I've had some of the best years of my career here. It was a lot more fun -- and a lot more sun. So it was definitely my favorite place."

At the press conference announcing his arrival at the "Big A," Hunter was so pumped up about the team's Rally Monkey mascot that he posed with a stuffed version of the white-haired capuchin monkey -- and eventually got to pose on the field with a real-life one hanging on his neck.

In Hunter's first season with the Angels, they won a franchise-record 100 games, and he had a career-best 23-game hitting streak. He batted .286 with 105 homers and 432 RBIs over his five seasons here, helping the Halos win back-to-back AL West titles in 2008 and 2009.

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