Torii Hunter is taking Brandon Wood under his wing
Torii Hunter spent countless hours last season mentoring Howie Kendrick, counseling the second baseman through his first-half struggles, a June demotion to triple A and a hot-hitting second half.
The veteran center fielder has a new youngster under his wing this season: Brandon Wood, the highly touted power prospect who is replacing All-Star Chone Figgins at third base.
FOR THE RECORD:
Angels baseball: A photo accompanying the Angels game story in Wednesday’s Sports section misidentified the Angels player pictured. It was Bobby Abreu, not Jeff Mathis. —
Class was in session Tuesday. The subject: Wood’s three strikeouts and popup in Monday’s season-opening 6-3 win over the Twins. The lesson: Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
“The pressure is on me and Bobby [Abreu], Kendry [Morales] and Hideki [Matsui], not on him,” Hunter said. “You can think, ‘I’m starting at third base in the big leagues, I’m replacing Figgy,’ but once he gets over all of that, he’ll be fine, he’ll settle in.
“It was his first game. He was anxious. Give him a couple weeks to make adjustments, to get used to the hype.”
Others don’t appear as patient. The first question to Manager Mike Scioscia in Tuesday’s pregame news briefing, from a television reporter, was whether it was too early to be concerned about Wood, who remained in the lineup Tuesday night.
The season, at the time, was one game old.
“Yeah,” Scioscia said. “We have a lot of confidence in Brandon’s ability. It’s going to take some time for him to get comfortable.”
How much time?
“We’ll give him five at-bats,” Scioscia said. “He’ll have one more [Tuesday night], and that’s it.”
The manager was joking.
“It’s going to take more than four at-bats to get a read on that,” Scioscia said. “We have some options to take some pressure off him if he starts to grind it out. Maicer Izturis will see some time there. But we think Brandon is going to be productive.”
Abreu, the veteran right fielder, has tutored many Angels hitters, but he took a special interest this spring in shortstop Erick Aybar, advising him almost every day about the transition from the bottom of the order to the leadoff spot.
So it was especially pleasing for Abreu to watch Aybar work a 10-pitch walk in his first at-bat Monday night and see 24 pitches in four plate appearances, hitting two singles, drawing a walk and scoring two runs.
“One of the things I lectured him about is, he plays the game kind of crazy in a good way — he runs the bases hard, plays the game the right way, yet at the same time, he’s relaxed,” Abreu said.
“I want to keep him that way. Moving to leadoff is going to put a little pressure on him. I want to remove that. Just play like you would when you play winter ball. Don’t change anything.”
Aybar, notorious for his free-swinging ways in 2008 when he drew 14 walks in 98 games, has changed his two-strike approach.
“When I get to two strikes, I close the zone,” said Aybar, who also walked in the first inning Tuesday. “Everything close to home plate, you have to swing. Bobby helped me with that. I look at him when he has two strikes, and Bobby’s spot is little. I call it the ‘Bobby Spot.’ ”
Bob Clear, an Angels coach and minor league manager from 1976-87, died Tuesday at age 82 after a long battle with a heart condition. . . . The Angels will fly 50,509 air miles in 2010, most in the major leagues. The Chicago White Sox will fly the least, 22,832 miles.