The Orioles activated right-hander Tommy Hunter from the 15-day disabled list before this afternoon’s game against the Oakland Athletics at Camden Yards and optioned right-hander Evan Meek to Triple-A Norfolk.
Hunter, on the disabled list with a left groin strain, pitched a scoreless relief inning Saturday at Low-A Delmarva, allowing no hits, striking out two and hitting a batter on 11 pitches.
“He’s ready to go,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I just wanted him [to pitch under] the lights, people wearing another uniform and recover. He wanted to throw some more pitches last night. Actually it was perfect.”
Hunter will be available out of the bullpen this afternoon.
“I was happy with it,” Hunter said of his outing Saturday. “I was able to throw a couple pitches where I wanted them and got the outs. It was good. ... I feel like I’m 100 percent. I’m ready to go get after them today.”
Showalter said the mental rest Hunter received by going on the DL might be even more valuable than the physical rest.
"But potentially and hopefully a little mental break might help," Showalter said. "I think a lot of times when you can kind of reset with guys, especially pitchers, sometimes you can get a guy who pitches more like his track record suggests.”
Hunter, who opened the season at the club’s closer, but lost the role after blowing three saves, said he’s looking forward to that reset.
“I don’t really want to live in the past,” Hunter said. “It’s a new year, so you’re going to have to make different adjustments than you did last year. I just think, keep throwing the ball, man. Things are going to start bouncing your way eventually. They have to, it’s baseball, so it’ll all even out by the end of the year, and you guys won’t be asking me those questions.”
Hunter will have to be careful about the injury, especially since he has had groin problems in the past.
“Continual maintenance, kind of like any injury,” Hunter said. “Once you get hurt, you’re bound to hurt it again. Fifty percent greater chance of hurting it again, and this is like the fourth time with it. ... There’s not much you can do.”
Meek, who was recalled Friday, was the easy choice to be sent back to Triple-A because he has minor league options remaining. He was designated for assignment earlier this season to create a 40-man roster spot, but he was outrighted to Norfolk and rejoined the team this week.
Meek allowed one run and two hits in one relief inning Friday, his only appearance in his brief stint this weekend.
-- Kevin Gausman’s seven-inning outing, as well as Darren O’Day’s extended 1 2/3-inning relief stint to close the game, saved the Orioles’ bullpen for today.
Closer Zach Britton was warming up in the ninth, but staying away from him last night makes him available for today.
Gausman recorded his best start as a major leaguer Saturday, holding Oakland to one run and four hits in seven innings.
He will get a reward for that.
Showalter said Gausman will make his next scheduled start in Baltimore, likely Thursday against the Toronto Blue Jays.
After the game, Gausman mentioned that working out of the bullpen helped him get through his one major jam of the game, stranding runners on second and third with one out in the sixth.
“It usually kind of starts as a need the club has, and they’re usually big arms, young arms,” Showalter said. “Gaus is not always going to throw 96, 97 in his career. So you’ve got to figure out the pitching part of it. I’ve said it a few times. That’s the way it used to be done. You kind of lose me sometimes when you say ‘Back when we played.’ Players don’t want to hear that. ... The game changes, but that’s the way you used to come to the big leagues. You started. You got a lot of innings in the minor leagues. You cut your teeth as a reliever and then you evolved into that role. It also helps you manage guys’ innings when they first get here."
The Orioles have held Gausman to some clear pitch limits this season. He didn’t throw more than 75 pitches in any of his five April starts at Norfolk. He threw more than 90 pitches just once in his four May starts.
Gausman threw 102 pitches Saturday, and Showalter said the 23-year-old is in good shape with his pitch and inning counts.
“We’re in good shape with Kevin with the diligence of the minor league department of keeping his innings to a point,” Showalter said. I was going over his three high inning totals and his three high pitch counts the day before yesterday. ... It made me realize it was the second time he’s pitched into the seventh inning all year.
“Someone asked me in the dugout how many pitches I was going to let him throw tonight, I said about 140,” Showalter joked.
Here are this afternoon's starting lineups: