Hunter: "I'm ready to go"

SARASOTA, Fla. - Tommy Hunter threw four innings and 60 pitches yesterday against the Boston Red Sox's Single-A team at Twin Lakes Park, just as the Orioles wanted him to do.

"I felt good," he said. "They were swinging the bats a lot yesterday. I made good pitches. I was throwing all four of my pitches for strikes."

Hunter still hasn't pitched in a Grapefruit League game because of discomfort in his lower back that no longer requires treatment - just some exercises - but his debut could come on Wednesday against the Toronto Blue Jays in Sarasota.

Hunter counted the number of days left in camp and figured he could make at least three starts, giving him plenty of time to be ready for the April 6 opener at Camden Yards.

"I'm ready to go," he said. "I could go right now. You could throw me out there and I'd be good to go."

Part of Hunter's optimism stems from the amount of pitches he's been able to throw in bullpen sessions, a simulated game and yesterday's minor league game.

"I think I'm right around where I should be. The way the ball's coming out of my hand, I feel great," he said.

"I feel a lot more comfortable this year than I have in the last three years - what I have, how I feel. I feel a lot better. I'm more relaxed. I know I'm getting my work in."

Meanwhile, Jason Berken (hamstring) will throw side sessions today and Monday, and could make his spring debut by the middle of next week.

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