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Torii has eyes on the ultimate prize

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HOUSTON -- The ring is the thing for Detroit outfielder Torii Hunter.

The 37-year-old Hunter has been named to four All-Star Games in his 15 full seasons in the Major Leagues. He has made the playoffs six times. But he has never won a World Series. He has never even played in a World Series.

"What keeps me going is the ring," he said. "I really want to get to that World Series and get a ring.

"At the same time, because of who I am, I'm going to play the game hard, play it the right way and have fun. I will never look back and say I did not have fun, or I didn't play hard."

Hunter needs only two more home runs to reach 300 for his career.

"It would mean a lot. Hopefully, I can get two over the next two years," he said with a laugh. "It's a great personal feat. It would be awesome. At the same time, I want something with the team. I've had the individual stuff.

"If I keep playing the game, I'm going to pass 300. I'm motivated by the ring. We had great talent with the Angels [last year]. The first part of April determined our outcome for the end of the season. We lost all those games in April we should have won. That's why I'm here now. Win today."

Hunter signed as a free agent with the Tigers.

What a contribution he has made. He went 4-for-5 on Saturday night, raising his average to .361.

"I don't have to swing hard anymore," he said. "I'm not a 3, 4, 5 guy. I like hitting second. I try to get on base for [Miguel] Cabrera, Prince [Fielder] and Victor [Martinez]. I don't have to swing as hard as I used to, and it helps me get base hits."

"Just look at the stats," manager Jim Leyland said of Hunter. "He's been a great addition. Four hits, two or three runs scored, that's the type of guy I like to have in the clubhouse. That's not to downplay that he's a total professional. He's a good personality."

Hunter fit in immediately with his new teammates.

"It's a good group of guys," he said. "They've been through the ringer together. They welcomed me with open arms. We're like family already. It's easy to fit in with guys like this so quickly."

Hunter could detect the camaraderie on the Tigers when he played the last five seasons with the Angels.

"Cabrera does not act like a Triple Crown winner," he said. "He's a big kid. Prince is the same way. Austin [Jackson] is a comedian. Even [Justin] Verlander, he's a comedian. Some of the things they say on the bench, you have no choice but to stay relaxed. It's so fun."

Hunter doesn't feel like the old school veteran.

"I tell people, 'Enjoy this game, because before you know it you'll be out of it,' " he said. "That's one thing Kirby [Puckett] told me, he and [Paul) Molitor: 'It goes fast, so have fun.'"

Gene Duffey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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