ANGELS: Hunter has a nose for the baseball

GOODYEAR, Ariz. - Torii Hunter found a proactive solution to the high pollen count in Arizona as well as his spring slump, apparently.

"It's crazy, man," said Hunter, who has been bothered by a sinus infection. "You go to the doctor for a sinus infection then you get hit in the nose. I go get an X-ray and they say, `Well, one thing I can tell you is - your sinuses cleared up.' That was pretty funny."

Hunter's second trip to the doctor was prompted by his run-in with the center-field wall during Wednesday's game against the Colorado Rockies. Hunter went face first into the wall in pursuit of a Jeff Baker drive. The ball got there first and caromed off the wall into Hunter's face, hitting him just to the right side of his nose and below his right eye.

"It swelled up, little sore right now," Hunter said. "But the X-rays came out negative."

Hunter said he couldn't see out of his right eye immediately after the injury. But that was related to the swelling and his eye watering. X-rays showed no damage to the bones near his eye.

"No fractures. That's a plus," he said. "I just have to deal with the soreness but that's a long way from the heart. I'm not about to sit out. You don't need your nose. You can cut that off. If it's not my legs or shoulders or arms, I want to be on the field."

Manager Mike Scioscia had planned to give Hunter a day or two off to let the swelling go down, but Hunter was in the lineup Thursday and hit his first two home runs of the spring in the 8-5 victory over the Cleveland Indians.

Hunter was just 4-for-24 before Thursday's game and "trying to find his rhythm at the plate," as Scioscia put it.

"I'll tell you what - when we went out there (Wednesday), it looked nasty. I would have bet my bottom dollar that his nose was broken," Scioscia said. "We're relieved."

Hunter could do his part to help Scioscia's blood pressure by avoiding walls in the spring, but Hunter said he can't do that.

"The ball beat me to the wall," he said. "It's like someone scratching on a chalkboard - it's irritating. I can't let the ball hit the wall. But the ball beat me and I got punished for it."

Fuentes is sharp

Closer Brian Fuentes had his best outing of the spring Thursday, retiring the side in order on three pop-ups in the seventh inning.

Fuentes brought a 12.27 spring ERA into the game, having given up five runs on five hits and two walks in 3<MD+,%30,%55,%70>2/<MD-,%0,%55,%70>3 innings against major league hitters and turning in unimpressive outings against the South African World Baseball Classic team and a group of Chicago Cubs minor-leaguers.

"I felt all right. I feel healthy," said Fuentes, who bowed out of the WBC when back stiffness forced him to stop throwing for several days earlier this month. "I wish I wasn't behind (in the count) as much as I have been. I didn't walk anybody and that's positive so I'm making progress. It's not midseason form or anything, but it's a positive step."

Fuentes called the back issues early in camp "obviously a hiccup" that set him back a little.

Scioscia expressed no concern about his new closer before the game.

"Here's the thing about Brian. He's a veteran. He knows what he needs," Scioscia said. "He will get into his game. His stuff will be there. We know that.

"With Brian, the last couple outings the ball is coming out of his hand much better and he feels better with it. He'll be there."

Fuentes said he focuses on building arm strength early in camp then starts to "fine-tune my mechanics." His velocity showed it Thursday, peaking at 90 (right in the 88-91 range he said is usual for him). He was stuck on 88 during his minor-league outing last week.

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