Jim Souhan: Torii Hunter talks of retirement and more

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 3, 2011 - 1:42 AM

The former Twins outfielder spoke about his future, retiring as an Angel or even a Twin, and the lack of warmth of GM Bill Smith.

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From left, Angels left fielder Vernon Wells, center fielder Peter Bourjos and right fielder Torii Hunter waited for a pitching change against the Twins on Friday.

ANAHEIM, CALIF. — Torii Hunter said he's considering retiring after the end of the 2012 season.

In an exclusive interview Friday, the Angels outfielder and former Twins star revealed that injuries and an early season slump led him to contemplate his future and that if he didn't retire with the Angels, he'd consider finishing his career in Minnesota.

He also lamented the nature of his departure from the Twins, discussed the importance of playing through injuries hours before Joe Mauer bailed out of the Twins lineup because of a cold, said Michael Cuddyer's contract situation reminds him of his unproductive negotiations with Twins GM Bill Smith, and described Twins management as having a ''small mind."

''I am going to retire an Angel," he said. ''Next year is my last year, and I'm going to retire an Angel. I'm going to evaluate it this offseason. That's when I'll know. It's 60-40, to the positive, that I'll keep playing."

Early this season, Hunter, 36, slumped while playing despite a quadriceps injury.

''I feel good now, but I was hurt the first two months, and I was just evaluating everything, like, man, I can't move," Hunter said. ''And then it just went away, and now I feel good, so now I'm on the positive side again.

''You don't want to see your skills diminish. You don't want to linger."

Hours after Hunter discussed the importance of playing with pain, Mauer begged out of the Twins lineup because of a cold. Hunter was not referring specifically to Mauer when he discussed the subject.

''I always tell people, I'm old school," Hunter said. ''I have an old soul. I play hard no matter what. I play hurt no matter what. I feel if I'm out there my presence will help my team. I didn't put up great numbers, but at least I was in there ...

''I wanted to be the guy who stayed in the lineup. Because I know how to play hurt. Now I'm healthy and able to help my squad, and we're making a push."

Hunter was a homegrown star and popular Twins outfielder when he left the Twins in free agency after the 2007 season. Cuddyer finds himself in an almost identical situation.

Hunter said he would have stayed with the Twins had he been offered a four- or five-year deal. Smith offered three. Recently, the Twins offered Cuddyer a two-year contract worth $16 million, even though Cuddyer is making $10.5 million this season and has been the Twins' best player.

Hunter said the Twins made an offer to him ''just to show people that I turned it down, to make me look bad. Same thing here. Cuddyer is going to make less, as a free agent? I told him before, 'They'll make an offer and people will say, 'You turned down the money, you could have stayed, you're money-hungry.' "

Hunter described Smith as cold.

''He had no heart, no compassion, no nothing," Hunter said. ''Because he wasn't the one who brought me in. [Former GM] Terry Ryan brought me in. Terry Ryan was my dad, my guy. When Bill Smith took over and we had a conversation, I wasn't feeling it. There was no chemistry, nothing between us. It was like I had never played with the Twins."

Noting that the Angels traded for Mark Teixeira during a pennant race in 2008, Hunter said: ''Sometimes I think they have that small mind over there, in that organization. I just feel they never went and got that big piece. Shannon Stewart worked out just fine for us [in 2003], he helped us out a lot, but getting Teixeira, that's big."

Hunter has been embraced by the Angels and their fan base.

''The Angels have been great to me," Hunter said. ''I love the Twins, love the fans, love Minnesota, but the Angels adopted me and I have nothing but positive things to say about this organization.

''So if I sign an extension, they'll get first dibs. I want to retire an Angel. If I can't, then why not Minnesota?"

Considering Mauer's softness, Hunter's relationship with Smith and the Twins' implosion, the better question might be, ''Why?"

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2:40 p.m. on 1500ESPN. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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