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Angels Sluggers Land on DL: Panic Time in O.C.?

Johnathan KronckeCorrespondent IJuly 11, 2009

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 12:  Vladimir Guerrero #27 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  is congratulated by Torii Hunter #48 after Guerrero hits a two-run home run in the fifth inning during a game against the Seattle Mariners at Angel Stadium on August 12, 2008 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Center fielder Torii Hunter and left fielder/designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero were officially placed on the 15-day disabled list today.

Guerrero tweaked his hamstring and strained a muscled behind his left knee when he landed awkwardly after making a catch in Thursday night's game against the Rangers.

Hunter will be resting a a strained abductor muscle in his side that he's been nursing since slamming into the wall at Dodger Stadium on May 22.

Now, after the screaming dies down, pay attention. 

No team wants its top offensive threats to miss 15 days, let alone 15 minutes. But the situation the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim find themselves isn't as bad as it could be.

Hunter is currently making a strong case for the AL MVP this year. He leads the Angels in both home runs (17) and RBIs (65). Add in his unmatched defense in center field, and Hunter is unquestionably the Angels' most dynamic threat on both sides of the ball.

However, he has only hit one home run since belting three in one game against the San Diego Padres back on June 13, and his batting average has steadily dropped from .321 on June 19 to .290 today.

Hunter is a spectacular player, but this is a long season and a little time off at the halfway point might not be such a bad thing.

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Guerrero, on the other hand, has had a rougher start to the season, but is starting to turn things around.

After an agonizingly slow start, which included over a month on the DL with a torn pectoral muscle, his average is back to a respectable .291, with two of his four home runs on the season coming in the last seven games. 

This month alone, Big Daddy is batting .357, slugging .643, and has driven in eight runs to help his Angels catch the AL West-leading Texas Rangers in the standings.

Guerrero and Hunter will be sorely missed.

But if there was ever such a thing as a “good” time to be injured, this is it.

In the first place, this 15-day DL stint is retroactive to the last game the Angels played against the Rangers, when Guerrero and Hunter sat out. On Thursday, the team had an off day before facing the New York Yankees in the weekend series.

So just like that, we're down to 13 days. Let's keep going.

Starting Monday, all of baseball enjoys a three-day summer vacation, more commonly known as the All-Star Break.

Players on the DL are ineligible for the All-Star game, so while poor Hunter won't be able to take his rightful place in center field, he will be afforded some extra rest before he returns.

Throw out the break, and we're down to 10 days. 

Now, immediately following the All-Star break, the Angels begin a six-game road trip. Normally, road games are tougher than those at home and teams value having their best players on the field.

But this road trip will take the Angels through Oakland and Kansas City, hardly the powerhouses of the American League. 

The Angels swept the A's the last time these two teams hooked up in a two-game set in Oakland. Two days later, they took three straight from the Royals in Anaheim, including a 1-0 win over Cy Young candidate Zack Greinke. 

Both of these teams are below .500 on the season and are struggling right now with both pitching and scoring, so losing a little offensive thump for these two series shouldn't hurt the Angels all that much.

Toss out those seven games, and we're down to just three meaningful days missed for Guerrero and Hunter–this weekend's three-game series against the New York Yankees at the Big A.

Only a half-game out of first in the division, it's important for the Angels to finish the first half of the season strong, especially at home. Just as no team wants to see it's sluggers go down with injuries, no one wants to head into the All-Star Break on a low note.

The Angels need to play well in the series, take two of three from the evil empire, and stay in contention for the division lead–a tall order without the likes of Guerrero and Hunter.

But if any team can do it, it's the Angels.

This team has endured harsher trials than any ever should in a season. Injuries to the starting rotation early on, the bullpen struggling to find its way, and of course the tragic death of a rising star in Nick Adenhart.

Through it all, the Angels are nipping at the heels of the division leaders, and are still a threat in every sense of the word.

With a rock-steady manager in Mike Scioscia at the helm, the Angels should weather the loss of Guerrero and Hunter with aplomb and be right in the middle of things when the big sluggers are ready to return.

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