Of the last four groups of All-Star relievers, only Minnesota's Glen Perkins had significant experience as a starter before becoming a reliever. Perkins moved to the bullpen in 2010, and he began closing in June 2012 — around the same amount of time between Hunter's transition to relief and his promotion to the closer's role.
Hunter hasn't had the experience as a minor league closer that some other closers may have, but he is learning how to approach different game situations and leads as he goes, and he said this is the first time he has needed to develop a strict plan with catcher Matt Wieters on how to approach hitters.
"You definitely pitch different, and I never really took that into consideration until [bullpen coach] Dom [Chiti] and [pitching coach] Dave [Wallace] started talking to me and making me understand that situations are going to dictate the pitches that you throw a lot more now," Hunter said. "One swing could possibly lose the game for us."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Hunter could even start entering games in the eighth inning for longer saves.
But Hunter's role or how he is used doesn't affect his approach. He said he won't know how to even guage success until after the season, let alone whether he has had it or not.
The bar in Baltimore is high, and Showalter thinks Hunter is approaching the job the way he should.
"He's got a lot of respect for the job, and he's seen some good ones do it, whether it be Texas or here," Showalter said. "Tommy takes the right things seriously. He's pretty approachable, very amicable, but when it's time, Tommy knows the job description; he knows what he's got to bring.
"And the season will tell us if he can do that."