If Tommy Hunter falters, will Steve Johnson be next man up?

Tommy Hunter, at least for one night, rejoins the Orioles rotation tonight in Minnesota. Steve Johnson will also be starting for the Triple-A Norfolk Tides at home against Rochester.

You have to wonder if Johnson could soon get a crack at the Orioles rotation. While Johnson has been used mostly in relief in recent appearances with Norfolk, he was a starting earlier this year and could be someone to look at if Hunter struggles tonight.

Hunter has certainly gotten several chances this year to show his stuff. He is 3-4 with a 6.11 ERA over 13 starts. Hunter is returning from Triple-A tonight where he was 2-1 with a 4.66 ERA in three starts.

But Hunter has had issues all year with elevating his pitches and giving up homers. He has allowed five earned runs or more in five of his past seven major league starts. He is 1-2 with an ERA of 8.16 in those seven starts and has allowed ten homers in 32 innings in that time.

That recent performance does not inspire confidence as he takes the mound this evening at Target Field. Yet he was 13-4 with an ERA of 3.73 with the 2010 Texas Rangers. If he had numbers like that now, he'd be a top of rotation guy on this team right now.

Hunter's WHIP in 2010 was 1.242 and is 1.444 this season. He clearly has shown big league talent before but good outings have eluded him most of this season.

By the way, Johnson must stay down in the minors ten days before he returns barring an injury. On this team, there seems to be one almost every day, but Johnson could not take Hunter's next turn barring a DL move by the club.

But, what are your thoughts on Johnson and could he be in line to get a start on this team before too long?

Updating both pitchers: Johnson gave up a solo homer in the first tonight but no runs after that and allowed just three hits over six innings. He walked one, fanned two and threw 95 pitches.

In Minnesota, Hunter took a 2-0 lead into the fourth inning. He has allowed four singles, throwing 53 pitches so far. He began a nifty 1-6-3 double play vs. Ben Revere to end the third when he fielded a hot, one-hop smash at the mound and started the DP to end that frame.

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