It’s a new Tommy Hunter. He’s recently married and in a new role, as Orioles closer.
But first, Hunter wants to tell you about his new eating habits---again.
Hunter is on a campaign to become a spokesman for Subway, and every chance he gets he slips in, more like, forces home the point that he could sell Subway.
After he got his third save in as many chances with a narrow escape on Wednesday night, Hunter pestered reporters to let him talk about his favorite chain.
Many players take the subway to Yankee Stadium. Hunter admitted he hadn’t, but did say:
“Subway actually presented me with a pretty good meal before the game. They have a quality restaurant and I like my Subway sandwiches,” Hunter said.
As long as he continues to save games, the occasional Subway plug may be tolerated.
For now, he’s got a more important job.
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Manager Buck Showalter affirmed before the season opener that Hunter would be his closer. Once the dalliance with Grant Balfour blew up and the team didn’t aggressively pursue other closers, the job was Hunter’s.
“This is a hard job. Closing out games against teams like the Yankees on the road is hard. It’s not just someone that’s going to look esthetically pleasing or be perfection, and it’s just assume the position and hope you like the end game. Tommy’s off to a good start, considering his lack of experience,” Showalter said.
There are others who could close: Zach Britton, Darren O’Day. Maybe Kevin Gausman, and even Preston Guilmet, a minor league reliever the Orioles acquired this week.
Hunter has three saves in as many chances, and Wednesday night, pitching with a two-run lead in the ninth, allowed his first run of the season before escaping.
"It was interesting. Definitely made that a little harder than you'd typically want that to be, but they hit the line twice, man. Got to try to get out of the situation,” Hunter said.
He’s got the mentality to close, and he certainly has the stuff. Now, he gets that ninth inning rush.
“Definitely, You got a little more adrenaline going. There’s definitely other guys that can come in after you that you don’t want that to happen. Your job is to anchor the bullpen, to protect, to I guess be the older guy on the team. Just go about your business and just try and set a standard, set a bar that everybody else is trying to get to, and hopefully I continue to throw the baseball and be pretty damn competitive,” Hunter said.
While he’s the closer, Hunter has not varied the approach to games.
“No different than what it was last year. I think it’s getting read into a little more than how I read into it. There’s a job when you get the ball from Buck, and that’s to get outs. Whether you come in the fifth inning, sixth inning, seventh inning, ninth inning, you still have the same job. I really don’t think the role has changed much.
“I’m still trying to get everybody out I face. Whatever it is, the other day I was hoping Tilly was going to finish that out to get his first complete game and unfortunately, that’s not how it worked out, but you like to see success in this game, and you like to see your teammates having success. The more success your teammates have, the easier it’s going to be for you,” Hunter said.
“You’re always constantly trying to get better on a daily basis. I think if you become complacent in this game, you’re not going to have a job for very long. And that’s something I learned from a young age, there’s always something you can do to get better. That’s something I continue to work on, to strive to be the best.”
Hunter is replacing Jim Johnson, who’s had a horrid start for Oakland. Johnson is 0-2 with an 18.90 ERA and one save in five games.
The new Hunter isn’t trying to be Johnson. He doesn’t rely on a sinker, but lots of heat.
“I’m not trying to be anybody that I’m not. Everybody knows what you get with me. I put it out there. That’s me, and I’m not going to change that because it’s gotten me where I am today. Don’t change something if it’s not broke,” Hunter said.
NOTES: The Orioles begin a three-game series with Toronto on Friday night. They’ll send Chris Tillman (1-0, 1.35) against Dustin McGowan (0-1, 13.50.) Bud Norris will pitch on Saturday night and Ubaldo Jimenez on Sunday. The Blue Jays counter with Drew Hutchison and Mark Buehrle.