Hunter on pitching coach interviews: “It’s not anything we need to worry about”

Rich Dubee interviewed yesterday for the position of Orioles pitching coach. Carl Willis will meet today with a group that includes manager Buck Showalter, executive vice president Dan Duquette and vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson.

Who’s got next?

Rangers bullpen coach Andy Hawkins and Braves minor league pitching coordinator Dave Wallace also will interview. Those are the four confirmed outside candidates.

“Whoever they pick will probably be overqualified for the job,” said Orioles reliever Tommy Hunter. “It’s not anything we need to worry about.”

Hunter is especially fond of Hawkins and offers a ringing endorsement.

“Hawk is the guy who told me I was getting called up to the big leagues,” Hunter said last night in a phone interview. “Hawk was the Rangers’ Triple-A coach for 2008. When I got called up, I pitched my first game and Goose, Mark Connor, got fired after my major league debut. The very next day, Hawk was the interim pitching coach for Texas, so I got my Triple-A pitching coach back, which was pretty good for me.

“Hawk was trying to pretty much show me the way, I guess, and he joined me the next day. He gave me congratulations for getting called up, and the next day I gave him a big hug and jumped up and down and congratulated him, welcoming him to the big leagues. It was a cool thing.

“Me and Hawk have a special relationship, but I don’t think that played any part in him getting an interview. A lot of it has to do with him being a great guy and going about his business the way you should.”

Hawkins remains a popular figure among Rangers pitchers.

“If you’re going to coach, you’ve got to be able to connect with players on many levels,” Hunter said. “He’s very smart, and he actually listens. He’s not going to try to put something on you that you can’t do. He’s not trying to turn you into somebody you’re not. That’s probably one of the biggest things. He tries to make the best of what he’s got with that player. He’s not trying to turn him into somebody else. I’m not trying to say a lot of coaches do that, but it’s easy to do.”

Connor began 2011 as the Orioles pitching coach, but he resigned two months into the season for health reasons, with Adair moving from the bullpen to replace him. Adair took a personal leave in August, with Bill Castro moving from the bullpen to replace him.

Adair won’t return in 2014. And Hawkins, who once replaced Connor in Texas, could replace Adair in Baltimore.

“I don’t know the extent of it,” Hunter said of Adair’s departure. “I’m kind of left in the dark, but it is what it is. They’ve got to fill the job. It’s sad to see Rick go, but the job is open and somebody’s got to jump in it.

“We’ve just got to throw the ball. That’s what it comes down to. A pitching coach can only do so much. You’re the one out there throwing the ball. They’re there for advice and to answer any questions when you have them, but there’s only so much they can help you with. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

“Everybody’s going to have their say and do what got them to the big leagues, and you’ve got to somewhat adapt. And I think Hawk or whoever they bring in will be able to do that and fit right in with the team and the chemistry and the Oriole Way.

“I guess you can put that in there. That would be pretty cute.”

True. You can’t go wrong in Baltimore when referencing the Oriole Way.

“There’s a layup,” Hunter said.

Thanks for the assist, Tommy.

Castro is expected to interview for the job of pitching coach as one of the in-house candidates. Hunter wants Castro in the bullpen if he loses out.

“Billy helped me so much,” Hunter said. “I like Billy. To be selfish about it, I hope he comes back to the bullpen. I always sat with him. He’s the reason my season turned out like it did. It’s not even a question. I will be straight up and honest. There’s no way I could have done what I did without him. I owe that man a lot.”

In his first full season as a reliever, Hunter went 6-5 with a 2.81 ERA in 68 appearances, with 71 hits, 14 walks and 68 strikeouts in 86 1/3 innings.

“He put my head on straight,” Hunter said. “He taught me how to do it. He taught me what to do. He told me what to do, gave me advice. I did it and I’ll be damned, it worked. I’ll go to bat for him in a heartbeat.”

Hunter posted a 2.40 ERA in August and a 3.45 ERA in September.

“I was kind of pissed he went into the dugout, which was a selfish part of me,” Hunter said. “He was the right man for the job, but man, I could have used him in September. I fell off. I really fell off.

“He’s great. I will go to bat for Billy. But Hawk, all the other guys, I’m sure they’re overqualified. Buck’s not going to put us in harm’s way.”

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