MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Torii Hunter plans to wake up early on opening day and head to his favorite pancake place for breakfast, just as he's often done before so many games at the Metrodome.
``I'm going to do all of the other things that I used to do before I go to the stadium, but once I get to that stadium and put on that Angels uniform,'' Hunter said, ``I'm the enemy.''
Technically, that's true. Though the seven-time Gold Glove center fielder signed with Los Angeles for the richest contract in Angels history, Hunter would have a hard time finding anybody under that Teflon ceiling this week who honestly feels he's a foe.
``I thought I would finish my career there, but I had it in the back of my mind just to be ready for it, that one day it would happen to me,'' Hunter said last week in his new Southern California surroundings. ``I was hoping it wouldn't but it did, and what better place can you come? To a stadium like this: 70 degrees and work on your tan.''
Sure, the Twins will try to send him off with four straight defeats to start the season. They'll try to strike him out as many times as possible and see if they can drive a few doubles to the gap and out of his great reach. Still, his popularity in the clubhouse and the community was such that it can't disappear so quickly. Hunter was probably Minnesota's favorite post-Kirby Puckett baseball player.
``Obviously when we see him in that other dugout that's going to be weird,'' Twins first baseman Justin Morneau said. ``As long as he's not robbing home runs from me, we'll be all right.''
Carlos Gomez wanted to greet him. Hunter's replacement in center field, acquired in the Johan Santana trade with the New York Mets, first met the All-Star when their teams played at Shea Stadium last year.
``He's my man,'' said Gomez, who suggested he might ask for advice on how to track flyballs in the Metrodome's baseball-colored roof.
After Hunter agreed to that $90 million, five-year deal right before Thanksgiving, he realized the Angels were opening the 2008 season in Minnesota.
``I was wondering if somebody tampered with the schedule, but they make the schedule before I signed,'' Hunter said. ``It's kind of ironic, but I think I'd rather get it out of the way on opening day than waiting until May.''
Los Angeles plays a four-game series here before heading west for the home opener Friday against Texas. The Angels, after adding Hunter to an already expensive, accomplished outfield including Vladimir Guerrero, Garret Anderson and Gary Matthews Jr., have a loaded lineup. Their starting pitching, for now, is a concern because of injuries to John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar.
They'll both miss at least the first month, leaving Jered Weaver to lead the rotation and take the mound for Monday's opener.
``It's something you look forward to, something you work for,'' Weaver said. ``Obviously, it would be a little different feeling if we had all five horses healthy and ready to go. But it's still a tremendous honor, that's for sure.''
Well, Weaver should have some good defense behind him in center. Hunter was never short on adrenaline throughout his nine seasons in Minnesota, and he's sure to be extra amped for this.
``I don't want to be a distraction to my team,'' Hunter said. ``I don't want that to happen at all. We're out to try to win. I'm not there to be friendly or anything.''
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire answered a couple of questions about the situation after the team worked out on Sunday. He kept his comments brief but made sure to toss out one of his familiar quips.
``Love him dearly. Hope he goes 0-for-16,'' Gardenhire deadpanned.
Certainly, he has his own issues to focus on. After an upheaval of the roster over the winter, Minnesota has five new regulars in the field and a raw rotation with only one veteran, Livan Hernandez. He'll start on Monday, followed by Boof Bonser, Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey and Scott Baker.
``It's a different group, and we're just going to see how we break down,'' Gardenhire said. ``Are we like locked in, solid go, together? Probably not. We've got a lot of things to learn about each other still. We've got a long ways to go here.''

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