Dealing with slump, Angels' Torii Hunter gets a big hit

Torii Hunter knows which keys to strike when he's slumping.

Hit to right center. Take more pitches. Keep the head still. Don't swing as hard.

Thursday, in the throes of a three-for-36 skid that dropped his batting average to .208 before the opener of a four-game set against the Boston Red Sox, Hunter added an early round of batting practice.

And when that session didn't progress as crisply as Hunter had hoped, he resorted to throwing his bat to the third base coach's box.

Add in a new slump checklist item: Blow off steam.

Hunter, after two groundouts Thursday, spoiled what appeared to be a Josh Beckett masterpiece by slamming a full-count, seventh-inning pitch over the fence in dead center for a tying home run. Nevertheless, the Angels lost, 4-2, in 11 innings.

Before the game, the Angels right fielder said, "I haven't been through it like this before," of a skid marked by 18 strikeouts in 18 games. "I'm trying to find my way out."

Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said he has considered giving Hunter, 35, a day off because Hunter is throwing "his timing off, he has to get simple."

"If [it] moves a player ahead, we'll do it … see what makes sense," Scioscia said. "He's got a little big on his swing, trying to create a little too much rather than take what pitchers are giving him. He's trying too hard and needs to settle down."

Hunter wants no part of sitting — "I never want a day off," he said — and is particularly annoyed by his .217 batting average with runners in scoring position while in the cleanup spot.

Before Hunter slammed the homer, comfort came only because the team started Thursday in first place in the American League West, with veteran outfielder Vernon Wells promising to return the favor Hunter gave in encouraging Wells through his own slow start.

Morales update

Injured first baseman Kendrys Morales returned from a rehabilitation stint in Arizona as he tries to complete his comeback from left ankle surgery last year.

"It feels very good, I'm really close [to returning], but I'm not going to push it and get hurt again," Morales said through interpreter Francisco Rodriguez, an Angels reliever.

Morales and Scioscia won't project when the slugger will return to the playing field.

Scioscia said Morales is working through stiffness and "range-of-motion issues." Morales said he'll spend the next days in Anaheim exercising and doing fielding drills.

Pitching rehabs

Starting pitcher Joel Pineiro will make a 60- to 70-pitch rehabilitation start for the Inland Empire 66ers of the California League on Monday at High Desert.

Scioscia said the team will evaluate afterward whether Pineiro needs another minor league start or is ready to return to the big club.

Left-hander Scott Kazmir is in Arizona for extended spring training, throwing exclusively fastballs in his outings.

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