NEW YORK - Mark Teixeira remembers calling Torii Hunter last winter.
"After I signed with the Yankees, I said, 'You know, good luck to you guys. Hopefully, we'll see you in the ALCS,'" Teixeira recalled.
And then he repeated the message when Hunter reached first base during the first series between the teams in May.
"I'm like, 'OK, I like that,'" Hunter told his former teammate. "And now we're here."
Having dispatched the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs in 2002 and 2005, the Angels meet New York for the first time in the AL championship series starting - weather permitting - tonight.
John Lackey pitches for the high-flying Angels, who won their fifth AL West title in six seasons under manager Mike Scioscia and then swept wild-card Boston in the division series.
Back in the postseason after missing out in 2008, New York swept Minnesota to reach the ALCS for the first time in five years and goes with CC Sabathia, who could get three starts in the best-of-seven matchup.
Sabathia could have been pitching Game 1 for the Angels. When the big lefty was a free agent after last season, Hunter recruited him for Los Angeles. They had gotten to know each other in the AL Central when Sabathia pitched for the Indians and Hunter played for the Twins.
Hunter praised the Yankees, saying they're tough because of what he said was their "$10 billion payroll."
OK, OK. He admitted that's an exaggeration of the actual $201 million opening-day figure. Still, that dwarfs the Angels' $114 million outlay.
Not that it's made a difference on the field. At 73-63, the Angels are the only AL club with a winning regular-season record against the Yankees since 1996.
New York had the best record in the major leagues during the regular season at 103-59, and the Angels were second at 97-65. The teams split 10 games.
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