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Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Tommy Hunter wipes sweat from his brow between batters in a baseball game against the New York Yankees, April 15.
Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Tommy Hunter wipes sweat from his brow between batters in a baseball game against the New York Yankees, April 15. (Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

Too early for bullpen angst: Hard to blame anyone for wondering what's going on with the Orioles bullpen, which opened the regular season by giving up runs in each of the club's first 10 games. O's relievers never came close to running up a dubious streak like that last year.

Of course, the concern quickly focused on setup man Tommy Hunter after he gave up the first pinch-hit grand slam since 2001 on Monday. Hunter gave up six earned runs in two appearances against the Yankees, blowing his early ERA up to 14.73 and prompting some muttering around town about the club's reluctance to sign departed free agent Andrew Miller.

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Little early for that. Relievers tend to have a few tough spells and Hunter had one early last year that cost him the closer role, but he bounced back to pitch very well as a setup guy. In fact, from the time Miller joined the O's until the end of the season, Hunter's stats were comparable. He allowed just four runs over 22 1/3 innings (1.61 ERA) from Aug. 1 on, while Miller allowed just three runs over 20 innings (1.35 ERA).

Running out of options: Third baseman Jimmy Paredes has begun his rehab stint at Double-A Bowie and manager Buck Showalter has shown tremendous interest in his comeback after he was one of the hottest hitters throughout spring training.

So, what exactly are the Orioles going to do with him when he's ready to go and, presumably, J.J. Hardy is close to rejoining the starting infield?

It's possible to activate both, but not without a price. The club would have to option Ryan Flaherty and/or Everth Cabrera or move a player who they probably won't be able to get back. My guess is that somebody without an option is going to get DFA'd unless Hardy comes back later than expected.

Sympathy for the Yankees: No, not really.

The Yankees have lost each of their first three series — all against division rivals — and they seem to be firing on no cylinders. That's got to be music to the ears of Orioles fans, but we're still talking about a Yankees team that has some quality starting pitchers and several of the game's top veteran hitters.

Maybe Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran and Alex Rodriguez are on the wrong side of the hill, but it would be foolhardy to underestimate them because they've all been special players. The thing that could keep the Yankees at the far end of the AL East standings is their defense, which entered the weekend leading the league in errors.

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