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'Track record' is difference between Tommy Hunter and Jim Johnson, Buck Showalter says

When Jim Johnson blew a save in the past two seasons, Orioles manager Buck Showalter continued to stick with him as the club’s closer because of his experience in the role.

This year, though, closer Tommy Hunter’s leash seems to be a bit tighter.

After giving up four runs in the ninth inning Tuesday, Hunter didn’t get a chance to redeem himself Wednesday in the Orioles’ 7-5 loss to the Detroit Tigers at Camden Yards. Hunter still appears to be the closer, but there seems to be a small level of uncertainty after he blew his second consecutive save Tuesday night.

“The difference between Tommy and Jimmy is that Jimmy had a track record,” Showalter said. “Tommy does, too, with certain other things, so there’s some unknown about where this will go with Tommy.”

Johnson converted 51 of 54 save opportunities in 2012, tops in the American League.

Showalter continued to stick Johnson in the closer’s role last year, even though he wasn’t as unhittable as the previous season and led the major leagues with nine blown saves. He went on to save 50 games again.

That might not be the case for Hunter, who had flirted with disaster for most of the early season before it finally caught up to him with the back-to-back blown saves.

After allowing just three earned runs in 112/3 innings to start the season, Hunter has given up at least one run in his past four appearances. He has a 21.60 ERA in 31/3 innings in that span, making his season ERA climb to 6.60.

Showalter has never been a fan of a closer-by-committee approach, but he said he’s considering it.

“I consider everything,” Showalter said. “Which time of the night? Midnight, 1, 2, 3 of 4 [a.m.]?”

Showalter objects to call reversal

Showalter said he disagrees with the decision made by baseball’s replay officials to overturn the call when Tigers pinch-runner Rajai Davis slid into second base in the ninth inning Tuesday night.

Davis was initially called out by second base umpire Paul Nauert, but the call was reversed after the officials examined the play more closely at the request of Tigers manager Brad Ausmus.

“I finally saw the replay that they used to overturn it,” Showalter said Wednesday. “I’m glad I didn’t see that last night before we talked. That’s what they overturned it with?”

After Don Kelly and Ian Kinsler lined out and Torii Hunter walked, Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera hit a three-run home run to give Detroit a 3-1 lead. Victor Martinez followed with a solo home run.

Though the call at second base didn’t directly lead to the Orioles’ downfall, Showalter said he thinks the crew made the incorrect decision. He said part of Davis’ guard protruded and helped him reach second base. The longer the extension is, Showalter said, the quicker the runner gets to second base.

“They have a thing now, it can only be X amount of inches,” Showalter said. “Otherwise you could take a lead at first, take one step and carry a 10-foot pole and reach and touch second base.”

Johnson back on minor league DL

Right-hander Steve Johnson had right shoulder discomfort once again Tuesday night, Showalter said.

The Orioles considered promoting Johnson this week, according to Showalter, but they didn’t do so because Johnson hadn’t pitched enough since coming off the disabled list May 3.

Johnson, who was placed on the disabled list again Wednesday, is coming to Baltimore to be examined by team doctors, according to an industry source. He has faced continued discomfort in his shoulder this year.

Johnson gave up three runs, three hits and two walks in two innings for Norfolk on Tuesday in his third start after missing three weeks because of the inflammation in his throwing shoulder.

Guilmet impresses in two games

Showalter praised relief pitcher Preston Guilmet for his performance Monday night and said he has liked what he saw from the right-hander in his brief stint with the Orioles.

Guilmet, 26, replaced Bud Norris after the starter was ejected in the eighth inning Monday for hitting Torii Hunter and retired all four batters he faced. Guilmet then recorded the final out in Tuesday’s loss before he was optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk after the game.

Showalter said he and his staff are still searching for a weakness from Guilmet.

“What am I missing?” Showalter said. “What did Cleveland know that we didn’t know?”

Around the horn

Orioles director of player development Brian Graham and minor league infield instructor Dave Anderson are candidates to fill in for third base coach Bobby Dickerson during Tuesday’s game on the road against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Showalter said. Dickerson will miss the game to attend his daughter’s graduation. … Showalter will miss Saturday’s game in Kansas City to attend his daughter’s law school graduation. Graham will fill in as an extra coach for that game. … Right-hander Chris Tillman will start Friday against the Kansas City Royals. Tillman said his groin has felt much better in the past couple days, and he has “no worries” about the injury. … With a single in the first inning Wednesday, center fielder Adam Jones extended his hitting streak to nine games. He recorded his 12th multihit game and American League-leading 11th infield hit of the season. … Frederick Keys catcher Steel Russell, who is the son of Orioles bench coach John Russell, suffered a hand injury that the club fears could be a broken finger. … The Orioles are 5-10 in day games this season. … Double-A Bowie outfielder Dariel Alvarez and right-handed pitcher Tyler Wilson were named the Orioles’ Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Month for April, respectively.

Baltimore Sun reporter Eduardo A. Encina contributed to this article.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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