SARASOTA, Fla. - You can include Tommy Hunter on your list of pitchers who are amused and challenged by the free-swinging minor leaguers who stand in the box against them at Twin Lakes Park.
Hunter threw 51 pitches yesterday against a group of Tampa Bay Rays Single-A hitters while the Orioles were playing in Port Charlotte.
“I felt pretty good,” he said. “Got my work in. They swung at a lot of pitches, so it’s hard to really ...”
No need to finish the thought, though Hunter came back to it later in his usual entertaining manner.
“I don’t know the exact number, but I would say of the 51 pitches, I know for a fact they swung at at least 40-some odd pitches,” he said. “I’m not exaggerating at all. I had one two-ball count and I had maybe two or three one-ball counts. It was tough.
“I told (catcher) Steel Russell to set up in the other batters box. Well, he did that and the umpire called it a strike. I was like, ‘All right, this isn’t even fun. This is kind of a joke.’ You’ve just got to go and get your work in. I know there are a few things I probably would have done - throwing balls in the dirt, you can definitely get a few strikeouts. But it’s just not going to play. But you’ve got to give them credit. They swung the bat, man. They swung it hard, too.
“I started off the third inning, the first 12 pitches, I threw 10 changeups. I got a few really good swings, like what you would like to see as a pitcher. Little things like that.”
So the day wasn’t a total waste.
Hunter hadn’t gone more than 2 1/3 innings in a Grapefruit League game and the Orioles wanted to stretch him out. He’s no longer in the discussion for the fifth starter’s job, but he could be a long man in the bullpen, a one- or two-inning guy and a spot starter.
“It’s one of those things where I think I’ve got to be ready for a lot of different roles,” he said. “You’ve just got to be flexible and when you get the ball, do what you can for as long as you can. I think that’s my situation right now and I’ve got to run with it.”
Here’s my favorite Buck Showalter quote of the day, in regards to infielder Jonathan Schoop: “I’ll tell you one thing for sure, he doesn’t let that high queso pass, boys. Anything up, he’s going to put a swing on it.”
The high queso. I’m totally using that one.