By Peter Schmuck
The Baltimore Sun
12:30 PM EST, February 25, 2014
SARASOTA, Fla. -- It appears that right-hander Tommy Hunter will enter the Grapefruit League exhibition season with the inside track to win the Orioles' closer role, but he said he isn't going to change much about his bullpen routine.
"If that opportunity presents itself, I'm going to be me," he said. "I'm going to try to get a little better from last year and see where that takes us."
Hunter had very solid year in middle and setup relief in 2013. He appeared in 68 games and finished 6-5 with a strong 2.81 ERA. He'll have to deal with the challenge of pitching several days in a row, but he said he got a lot of good advice pitching in the same bullpen with Jim Johnson and Francisco Rodriguez.
"I got to talk to Jim for a couple years while I was here,'' he said. "I got moved to the bullpen and they [the other relievers] gave me their helpful insight. And K-Rod was with us last year, too, and I played catch with him every day.
"The adjustment going from the rotation to the bullepn definitely was different. Pitching in general is challenging and changing roles sometimes is a little hard, too, and you've got to get used to it. You've got to figure out your routine. That's basically what they taught me is just stay in a routine and let it eat."
Hunter was developed as a starting pitcher and pitched primarily in that capacity until becoming a full-time reliever last year. He does not regret the change.
"I love the bullpen,'' he said. "I'll be honest. Just the adrenaline rush at the end of a baseball game. The starting thing, it progressively gets better. The further you get into the game, the more relaxed and the more into the game you get. Being in there for one inning at the end of the game, it's already a pretty amped up situation. I like the pen. Pretty exciting. I get a chance to come back and not wait four days."