Orioles notebook: Pitching coach Adair high on Hunter

New O's righty to make first start of season Friday vs. Blue Jays

August 04, 2011|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Tommy Hunter's most recent major league start was Game 4 of the 2010 World Series.

His next comes Friday at Camden Yards for the Orioles against the Toronto Blue Jays. Hunter's current pitching coach, who has known the 25-year-old since he was a minor leaguer in the Texas Rangers' organization, thinks the right-hander has what it takes to succeed at this level.

"He came out as a highly touted high school kid and from a really good program in college [at Alabama] and came into the system in Texas, which is very good at developing talent, especially over the last five or six years," Orioles pitching coach Rick Adair said. "And winning is kind of bred into you. And that's what he is about."

Hunter won 13 games for the Rangers last season but was slowed by a right groin strain this spring and was relegated to the minors before pitching eight games in relief for the Rangers in July. He and first baseman Chris Davis were dealt to the Orioles on Saturday for Koji Uehara, and Hunter made his Orioles debut with one inning of relief Tuesday.

He hit 97 mph with his fastball in Tuesday's relief outing, but Adair said Hunter throws primarily 90-93 as a starter, with a mix of pitches, including a changeup and sinker.

"You'll probably see a guy that, obviously, is going to be aggressive," Adair said. "I don't think his style of pitching is going to change at all."

Manager Buck Showalter said Hunter seemed like the perfect fit for Friday's open spot in the rotation because he had pitched just one inning in the past week. In order to get him acclimated to his new surroundings, the Orioles sent Hunter to Baltimore on Thursday afternoon.

Showalter said Hunter will be on a pitches/innings limit, but he won't be revealing that to the media or his pitcher, whose longest big league stint this year was 42/3 innings and 69 pitches July 2. He has pitched six innings or more in an outing just once since May 10 at any level.

"He's a big, strong guy; he's durable," Showalter said. "I think the only thing we will have to do is rein him back a little because he's going to be ready to go."

When the Orioles were considering trading for Hunter, Adair was consulted. He gave a strong review.

"You've got a chance to have a starter that can give you 200-plus innings. He has already won at the major league level," Adair said. "He's been with championship clubs. Why would you not want that guy? He's got personality, extremely good work ethic. Yeah, we are excited to have him."

Tillman, Izturis back Friday

Infielder Cesar Izturis, who has been on the disabled list since mid-May with an elbow injury that required surgery, will come off the DL on Friday. Also expected to join the team Friday is starter Chris Tillman, who will be activated so he can make Saturday's start.

Because Tillman was sent down after Saturday afternoon's loss at Yankee Stadium, he can be summoned before the 10-day period expires only if another player is injured. Right-hander Jake Arrieta (bone spur in right elbow) will be placed on the DL to make room for Tillman, who is 2-4 with a 5.16 ERA in 11 big league starts this season.

Izturis recently finished a rehabilitation stint with Double-A Bowie in which he batted .240 in seven games. He had six hits, including a double, in 25 at-bats. He recorded three RBIs and three runs. He'll return to a utility role while Josh Bell or Blake Davis is returned to Triple-A Norfolk.

Reyes to face Jays

Left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes, who was claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays on Tuesday and pitched Wednesday for the Orioles, will return to Camden Yards this weekend for a series against Toronto.

"It's going to be fun playing against those guys," said Reyes, who was 5-8 with a 5.40 ERA in 20 starts for Toronto this year. "The whole team I knew very well, so it's going to be fun, but when it comes time to play ball, it's all business."

He said there's no bitterness toward the Blue Jays' organization.

"No, they gave me every shot possible," he said. "I did well for a while, except for the last few weeks, so I'm just going to go in there and do my job [for the Orioles]."

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