While Buck Showalter hasn’t said that Jim Johnson is still the Orioles closer, he hasn’t said he isn’t either. But Tommy Hunter did get the save Wednesday against Tampa Bay and it was his fourth this year.
Hunter said he didn’t know he would be on the mound to end the game that night, but he also doesn’t feel the Orioles have any closer controversy right now either. He certainly isn’t campaigning to pitch the ninth. He is happy to work whenever they hand him the ball.
“I think everyone is reading a little too much into me going into the game the other day,” Hunter said this afternoon. “It is what it is. Everyone is trying to put a little pressure on Jim that is not needed. It is maybe even a little unfair to a guy that has saved 97 games (actually 90) the last two years. He’s our closer and he needed a break the other day.
“The thing that a lot of media people don’t see, he is getting warm (in the bullpen) you know three, four, five games in a row. Guys, I’m here to tell you that is hard to do. His job is difficult and we’re just here to take some of that stress off him so he can get in there and shut the door.”
Hunter is 3-2 with a 2.63 ERA and four saves on the season. While his fastball averages 96 mph and that gives him what some feel is true closer stuff, Hunter said his curveball has also been a big pitch for him this year and he started two hitters off with curveballs on Wednesday night.
“Guys start to sit on that (fastball). Hopefully I can get them off of that,” he said. “The more I get them off the fastball, the more likely I am to have a good inning.
“I have some good off-speed stuff and was using it for seven years as a starter. I have a terrible changeup. I use it every once in a while, but I would consider my curveball above average.”
Hunter believes that there is no difference when pitching in the ninth and is ready if he gets the ball in that inning tonight or whenever.
“Yeah, definitely (it’s the same). There is really no difference in pitching any particular inning, you still have to do the same thing,” Hunter said.