(Sports Network) - Torii Hunter makes his return to Angel Stadium, as the Detroit Tigers are out west to open a three-game series with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Friday.
After the Angels balked at re-signing Hunter after he hit a career-best .313 last season, the veteran outfielder moved on to sign a two-year, $26 million deal with defending AL champion Detroit.
And the Tigers have certainly reaped early rewards. Entering play Friday, Hunter leads the American League with a .413 batting average and 26 hits.
Although he carries an 11-game hitting streak, Hunter was given off on Thursday as Detroit suffered a 2-0 loss at Seattle, the team's first setback in five games. Still, the Tigers own a half-game lead over Kansas City atop the AL Central Division standings.
The Angels were rained out for Wednesday's series finale against Minnesota, and Thursday was a scheduled off day. Coming off the two-day break, they hope to avoid their worst 15-game start in franchise history. Second baseman Howie Kendrick acknowledged the challenge of trying to replace a team leader like Hunter.
"He was a big piece of our team, but at the same time, we have a lot of guys that step up and play the game, too," Kendrick said. "He was a very vocal leader, he was a very passionate guy about the game, but we have a lot of guys in this locker room that are very passionate and play with a lot of vigor."
More than just energy and passion, the Angels need their starters to begin stringing together stronger outings. The rotation's 6.07 ERA is the highest in the majors, as the bullpen has been forced into action early and often. Tommy Hanson, Wednesday's scheduled starter, will now take the hill for the Halos for Friday's series opener, which kicks off a six-game homestand.
Hanson served up hits to each of the first four batters he faced last Friday against Houston, and he went on to give up all five runs in a 5-0 loss.
"I've always been told that starting pitching sets the tone and I didn't set the tone."
For the Tigers, Anibal Sanchez takes aim at his third straight win. The right- hander lasted seven innings and struck out eight batters in each of his last two outings, netting wins over Toronto and Oakland.
The teams split 10 meetings last season.