Tommy Hunter wore an Orioles uniform for parts of five seasons, so facing his former team on Saturday – now as a member of the Cleveland Indians – was admittedly strange, he said.
Hunter entered Saturday's 11-4 Orioles loss in the seventh inning armed with a six-run lead, but allowed two runs on three hits in the frame. Hunter allowed five of the first six batters he faced to reach base in his worst outing in 11 appearances with the Indians.
"It was kind of hard, you just don't look up, just try and keep your head down and go," Hunter said. "It was some pretty good friends, but you never want to give up two runs."
Adam Jones took a hanging curveball off the left-center field wall to drive in Joey Rickard, who led off the inning with a double. Two batters later, another run scored on Machado's double-play ball.
"It's terrible," Hunter said about facing his former team. "You want to strike everybody out. … It was like, man, just take three groundballs and let me be on my way, so and then hanging a pitch to Jonesy, I just started laughing, not really laughing. I was really pissed, to be honest with you, upset I should say. I was like, 'Man, I should just put this ball on the grass, and he's going to go swing at it.' But, of course, Jonesy takes care of hanging breaking balls."
Hunter – who had been a key part of the Orioles bullpen, including a brief mixed-bag job in the closer role early in 2014 – was dealt to the Cubs at last year's trade deadline in a move that shook the Orioles' clubhouse. Hunter was always a well-liked player, a solid contributor and he added an infectious personality that fit the Orioles' clubhouse well.
"Tommy is easy to like," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "He plays hard. He pitches hard and he's a great teammate. … Tommy, you pull for him. It's easy to pull for him. I wasn't pulling for him last night.
"...He's very competitive and a good father and a good husband. He handles adversity well and he has great self-awareness and when something doesn't go right, he looks in the mirror. Over a long season, that plays well in clubhouses. There are so many people who are trying to push it off on something else."
Aside from Saturday's outing, this season has gone well for Hunter. He opened the year on the disabled list but recorded eight scoreless appearances in his first 10 outings before Saturday.
Hunter tweaked his groin shortly after he was traded to the Cubs last season and needed two core muscle surgeries in the offseason.
"A little bit of abdominals, a little bit of sports hernia with your abs coming together," Hunter said. "They sewed that back together, groin and the other two abductors. All three abductors got reattached. … It's all good. It's all a work in progress. I was fortunate to get an opportunity to come back and play and get the opportunity to get stronger and better."
The offseason injuries – and a 5.74 ERA with the Cubs after the trade – hurt Hunter's free-agent market value. He was close to signing with the Yankees and Rays, but those deals never materialized. Instead, he's in Cleveland.
The Indians signed him to a one-year, $2-million deal, near where he and his wife, Ellen, had already made an offseason home.
"It was no fun," Hunter said of the offseason. "It wasn't very enjoyable. Everybody's got their stories. The whole, don't get bitter, get better, work harder type of deal if you don't like where you're at type of situation, but I love where I am. I'm able to stay at home. My wife has family around her with a baby. It ended up working out about as good as you can possibly imagine. For all the ups and downs the offseason held, I think we ended up on top as a family."