Hunter arrives at camp full of love, praise for Tigers

LAKELAND, Fla. - Torii Hunter had a wandering eye.

Back in November, he admitted he scouted other teams and "flirted" with the Tigers while playing against them with the Los Angeles Angels. Thursday, he arrived at his new team's camp a day early.

Fittingly, it was Valentine's Day.

"If you want to date a girl, you want to take her on a couple dates and take her out, see what she's all about, before you make that commitment," Hunter said.

"And that's what I did with the Tigers. Here I am."

Hunter said walking into the clubhouse for the first time made him feel right at home. He was accustomed to seeing the Tigers as an opponent for so many years with the Minnesota Twins, and most recently, with the Angels.  But with his outrageously outgoing personality, he had no trouble meshing with his former enemies within minutes.

"Signing him is awesome," centerfielder Austin Jackson said.

"I remember meeting him a few years ago, and he introduced himself. I knew who he was, but it just shows what kind of character he has."

Hunter was all about making friends, not burning bridges, Thursday. Dozens of reporters surrounded him after his arrival, and swarmed him with questions about the potent hitting power he left behind in Los Angeles. The Angels, by adding Josh Hamilton, stayed in stride with the Tigers for the most dangerous lineup in baseball. 

The 37-year old knew better than to indulge in trash talking his old teammates.

"I'm with the Tigers now," he said.

Hunter didn't shy away from anointing Miguel Cabrera the best right-handed hitter in the game. He will hit second in a lineup filled with good hitters, starting with the reigning Most Valuable Player.

"Hitting in front of a Triple Crown winner, at least I can tell my grandkids I hit in front of one of those guys."

"The Tigers lineup is pretty impressive. You guys look at the power and all that stuff. I look at these guys battling. They battle at the plate. They're not just free swingers. They can hurt you."

Hunter said he knows his place in the lineup. He has dropped weight in the offseason, shedding pounds because he believes you only get slower when you're older, "so why get bigger?" The veteran outfielder expects to be put in situations to move Austin Jackson over, and advance the leadoff hitter.

When he was asked to break down the American League Central, he didn't pull back any punches in discussing his eventual pick for the division crown.

"If I had to make I pick, I wouldn't tell you who it'd be. But it'd be us...I've come to the best team."

Brad Galli is a Sports Reporter for WXYZ Detroit. Follow Brad on Twitter @BradGalli.

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