The Orioles' ever-changing pitching staff now includes a few new but familiar faces.
Right-handed reliever Tommy Hunter was signed to a major league contract after his release from the Cleveland Indians made him a free agent, and reliever Oliver Drake was called up from Triple-A Norfolk to add another option to a floundering bullpen.
"We need some arms," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said before today's game against the New York Yankees. "We knew we could get through one day, and we knew we were going to go to seven today. [Executive vice president] Dan [Duquette] and I talked a lot about how we probably needed two. But Tommy was available, and we got him."
Showalter said Hunter, who was with the Orioles from 2011 until last year's trade deadline, brings experience. He was most recently rehabilitating with the Indians' Triple-A affiliate after suffering a back injury carrying his newborn son down the stairs. He had a 3.74 ERA for the Indians, and also missed part of the season after having three offseason core-muscle surgeries.
"He's done some work on his health, had some challenges that he seems to have behind him," Showalter said. "We didn't have to give up a player, and we like Tommy's makeup. He's been in this division before, and it's a pretty seamless fit for our locker room. If you look at what's available this time of year, Tommy, we felt fortunate to add him this time of year."
"I'm thrilled," said Hunter, who was traded to the Chicago Cubs in 2015 for outfielder Junior Lake. "Some of my best friends are in there. So, it's been a wild year and a half. It was pretty exciting times in our household last night."
Hunter said it felt like yesterday that he was in the Orioles clubhouse.
"It doesn't go away," Hunter said. "There were a lot of memories here. A lot of lasting memories, not only for me but for my family as well. Baltimore is special to me, my family — it's always going to hold a special place. Walking back through the doors and seeing all the faces I just saw makes you smile pretty big."
Hunter and Drake, who Showalter said has been "pitching good" in Norfolk, add usable arms to a bullpen that has pitched 10 2/3 innings over the first two games of this series in New York.
To make room for them on the Orioles roster, and for Hunter on the 40-man roster, left-hander T.J. McFarland and outfielder Julio Borbon were designated for assignment. Showalter indicated that both remain in the Orioles' plans if they pass through waivers.
"There's a lot more to it than that," Showalter said of designating McFarland. "It's not your standard that. It would be a good question for Dan [Duquette]. It's not what it may appear, we think. We hope. We'll see what the next two or three days bring for he and Julio. We've been down this road before with Julio. It becomes a challenge this time of year for a roster spot. We're going to need some more in September."
McFarland allowed four runs in 2/3 of an inning Saturday in his return from a knee injury that cost him two months. Borbon was added to the roster Saturday to provide cover for center fielder Adam Jones (hamstring). Nolan Reimold starts in center field today in his place.
Around the horn: Showalter said right-hander Chris Tillman (shoulder bursitis) had his flat-ground session moved up from Tuesday to Monday because he feels so good. Showalter said he'd lay out a schedule for Tillman after the session Monday, but that he estimates he won't be back until Sept. 9 or 10. ... Jones might have played today if it were a night game, but Showalter said the quick turnaround with a 1 p.m. game was a big factor in keeping him out of the lineup for the second straight day.