Hunter hunting for ways to retire Middlebrooks

SARASOTA, Fla. - We’re heading back to Tampa today for a 1:05 p.m. game against the Yankees.

This time, we won’t stake out Brian Roberts in the home dugout. That ship has sailed.

This time, we won’t be subjected to the torturous rush hour traffic on the way up there. We’ll hit it on the way back to Sarasota.

Bud Norris and Kevin Gausman will double-team the Yankees, who are starting Michael Pineda.

Tommy Hunter had a humorous take yesterday on the two home runs that he’s served up to Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks this spring.

I had to ask about them. He played along as only Hunter can do.

“He likes fastballs,” Hunter said. “They were not good pitches. Middle, middle. Usually a pretty good pitch to hit. I’m setting him up for the season. He’s probably going to get a couple offspeed pitches the next time up. Setting him up for the regular season, man. I want him to think that’s all I’ve got. It’s all in the chess game, right?”

Makes sense to me. All part of the master plan.

“Actually, I feel really, really good,” Hunter continued. “I got two ground ball outs on a changeup (Tuesday). One was a double play. The curveball, I think, is going to be a pretty good out pitch for me this year. I just need to locate a fastball down and away and I think we’ll be good to go.

“I got popped a couple times with changeups last year and I was really trying to learn it. To get two ground balls outs on it (Tuesday) was just ... I jumped for joy, even though I did give up a home run to Will Middlebrooks.”

Yes, that guy. The one who already homered off Hunter three days earlier.

“He did, on a 2-1 fastball that was in the exact same spot,” Hunter said. “He likes that spot. I’m probably going to stay away from it during the season.

“If I face him again, you can go ahead and tell him he’s probably going to get a couple curveballs and a couple changeups, and then he’s going to get a fastball about right here.”

Hunter raises his hand close to his chest.

“And then he’s probably going to get another curveball and he’s probably going to strike out,” Hunter said. “Three or four pitches, give or take one.”

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