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For now, Tommy Hunter is the Orioles closer. Of course that may change if the team signs Fernando Rodney, makes a trade or wants to try someone else in the role.
Hunter is untried in the role. The Orioles don’t know how Hunter will withstand the pressure of pitching on multiple days.
Let’s look a little closer at last year, a most successful one for him, and his first as a full-time reliever.
Hunter pitched on back-to-back days eight times in 2013, and on one of those, Aug. 17-19, worked three straight days. He pitched two scoreless innings, allowing two hits.
Some of his better outings came on consecutive days. On Apr. 29 and 30, Hunter pitched three scoreless innings and allowed just two hits, and on June 13-14, worked 3 1/3 scoreless.
Adam Dunn’s game-ending home run beat him in the second game of a back-to-back on July 4 in Chicago, and Hunter had a bad outing on Aug. 12 in Arizona when he gave up two runs on three hits in 2/3rds of an inning.
Overall, Hunter was terrific against right-handed batters, allowing just a .141 average, eight walks and no home runs. He wasn’t as sharp facing left-handers. Hunter allowed 11 home runs and a .294 average against lefty hitters.
At home, Hunter was phenomenal. He was 2-1 with a 2.06 ERA and a 0.870 WHIP. On the road, Hunter had a 4-4 record with a 3.44 ERA and 1.118 WHIP.
Hunter pitched 30 1/3 innings in save situations to an ERA of 2.67. In 45 games where he pitched the eighth inning, Hunter had an ERA of 1.83. His 23 games in the ninth, which weren’t all save situations, a 4.50 ERA.
It will be interesting to see how Hunter transforms to a closer, if that is the Orioles’ final plan.
Jim Johnson did far better in his second attempt at closing in Aug. 2011 than he did two years before in his first.
The Orioles’ hope was to find a closer to replace the traded Johnson and keep Hunter in the setup role. It may still work out that way.