This week, I talked to one of the funniest guys in the Orioles clubhouse, reliever Tommy Hunter. The right-hander went off on some tangents and got a little colorful, as expected. We chatted about the division, the bullpen, and life as a reliever.
Q: With a close divisional race in the first half, how much did you expect the AL East to be this close?
TH: Man, it's going to be like this every year. A lot of pretty good teams and it's going to a tough race, it's going to come down to the wire every year, and we know that. Looking forward to it, hopefully we can put a couple runs together and seperate ourselves.
Q: How important does that make games against your divisional opponents?
TH: You're not really going to take any game more important than the other. You try to come to the field and win every game every day you show up. You know, baseball, it's not going to happen. You're going to win 60, you're going to lose 60, it's those games in between, it's those other 42 games that are really going to determine your year. It's going to determine whether you go home early or you stay around for another couple weeks. We're just trying to get our ticket to the dance and roll the dice from there.
Q: You've had a pretty great first half. Are you happy with how you've done to this point in the season?
TH: Yeah. There's always room for improvement in anybody's game, anybody's job. I'm definitely not going to sit on it, be like 'Yay, good for me,' or anything like that. It's a constant battle, there are a lot of guys playing behind me that have contributed to putting a season together for me.
Q: Last year, you were back and forth between the bullpen and rotation, much like you have throughout your career. Do you think it's been good for you to just have one role this season?
TH: It is what it is. I don't really see it as being more difficult or anything like that. It's getting a baseball every once in a while and throwing it, I hope sometimes, by people. That's what you try to do. You try to get outs, whether you're starting or coming in out of the bullpen, you're just trying to get outs. That's the main objective.Q: How good has it been for team chemistry to have this same core group of relievers from last year?
TH: You're with these guys three hours a night, so of course you're going to have a lot of accountability out there. So when you do something stupid, there's six other guys out there, kind of like a family away from families. I would say we're a pretty tight-knit group. We have each other's backs and nobody wants to see anybody falter or fail or anything like that. And when you do, you've got five other guys trying to pick you up. That's how we kind of look at it, everybody just tries to go about their business, goes about their job every day and tries to win a ballgame.
Q: As a reliever, if you have a bad outing, how important is it to try and not think about it the next time out, especially when they can be so close together?
TH: I mean, it is important, but I mean nobody has a short memory. Everybody remembers the times they blew it, the times they gave it up. There's reasons for that. You can use it as motivation. I tell you what man, I like the Twitter accounts, people talking [expletive] about you. I love it. I think it's great. It fuels me, because I know I'm good. Then when you get people sitting there telling you, 'Tommy Hunter, go jump off a cliff. You just lost the game for us.' I mean, bring it dude. You think you can do a better job, try it. Good luck. I think I can speak on behalf of everybody, poured a lot of time, sweat, a lot of different things. This is what we live for. That's why I like trash talkers. It's pretty fun. It's fun to get their perspective. But man, good luck. Come out here and you try to do it and see how good you do. There's a reason I'm out here and you're on your computer writing [expletive] about me.
I mean, I like it. It kind of fuels me, makes me dig deeper, try to make everybody love you, and try to do the best you can and never mess up. That's the whole idea. If you don't mess up, people aren't going to talk [expletive] about you. That's the cool thing.
Q: Who is the funniest guy out in the bullpen?
TH: We've got a bunch of good guys. Bob, well, Bob is who we call T.J. [McFarland]. We call him Bob. I mean, we just come up with random things. Troy Patton looks like a canary, so we call him El Canario. There's little things, it's just a group effort. Darren O'Day's probably the headliner out there. He's a pretty funny man, he's really smart, quick-witted. He probably leads it up. But before that, [Luis] Ayala and [Matt] Lindstrom, they'd go at it down there. It'd be fun. We miss those guys, we miss Petey [Pedro Strop]. He'd always throw his two cents in there. We miss him, but we have a good group.
Q: You guys recently acquired another former Ranger, Scott Feldman. Was it good to see another familiar face join the team?
TH: Another good dude man. Another clubhouse guy. It's a pretty common theme around here, they're bringing guys in that fit well in any kind of clubhouse, bring chemistry to the team, bring just a good clubhouse atmosphere. And they also bring in guys that want to win. Guys that hate losing. You ask anybody in here man, I don't care if we're playing ping pong, we're playing badminton, we're playing chess, playing cricket, I don't care what we're playing. We don't like losing. Nobody in this clubhouse does. You get 25 guys in here to have a common goal, you have a pretty damn good season.