BALTIMORE -- After missing 32 games, Torii Hunter is ready to get back in the pennant race.
The Los Angeles Angels center fielder was activated from the 15-day disabled list late Saturday night and inserted in the starting lineup Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles. He had been out since July 7 with a strained right groin muscle.
His return comes at a crucial time for the Angels, who were 4½ games ahead of the Texas Rangers in the AL West headed into Sunday's game.
"I am comfortable going out there the way I feel now," Hunter said Sunday morning. "The adrenaline of being back will likely carry me through today, then we'll have to see how it goes over the next two weeks. My timing may be a little off [at the plate], but I don't plan on wasting any at-bats. I'm eager to jump in there and help the team to win."
Hunter batted sixth in the lineup instead of his customary third spot.
"My plan is to play him today, give him tomorrow off, then play him again on Tuesday," manager Mike Scioscia said. "For now, he'll bat sixth to get some at-bats. Ultimately, we'll get him back to third in the order."
Hunter was batting .305 with 17 homers, 65 RBIs and 13 stolen bases at the time of his injury.
"Having Torii back in the lineup, it couldn't come at a better time." said Bobby Abreu, who has batted third in Hunter's absence. "He was an important part of our offense and you could feel his absence in the order. Now, having him back and with [Vladimir Guerrero] beginning to hit again, it'll be a big lift to us, the kind of lift you need in August and September."
The Angels will have to wait a few days before Hunter and Guerrero get in the lineup together. Guerrero was scratched Sunday after being hit by a pitch on Saturday night.
"That's too bad we have to wait another day or two," Abreu said. "Still it's exciting to think about."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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