Over the weekend we found out that Tommy Hunter was possibly interested in competing for a starting role with the Baltimore Orioles in 2014. Hunter was a bit of a bulldog for the Orioles this past season, posting a 4-6 record with a 2.81 ERA out of the ‘pen. The O’s of course acquired Hunter in a 2011 trade which brought him and Chris Davis to Baltimore in exchange for Koji Uehara. We all know how that trade has turned out thus far. However Hunter came to the Orioles with the team expecting him to be a starter. He’s had his chances to start, but he’s been fairly ineffective in that role.
He has however been decent out of the bullpen. As the Orioles found out once again with T.J.
McFarland in 2013, starting and coming out of the bullpen are two different mindsets. Hunter has had struggles out of the bullpen at times also, but overall he’s been fairly solid. I would submit that Buck Showalter needs to either very politely tell Hunter that starting is probably not an option at this point, or the Orioles need to find a trade partner that might be willing to let Hunter start. This is no knock on Hunter mind you; I think he’s been good for the Orioles out of the bullpen, and I think Orioles fans would hate to lose him in that role.
However while he hasn’t started in over a year, he was always inconsistent at best as a starting pitcher. You in theory could draw a parallel with Koji Uehara, who wasn’t good as a starting pitcher, but found his groove in the ‘pen. And there’s no shame in that incidentally. I understand Hunter’s yearn to start, as all pitchers want to be thought of as starters. I just don’t think that the Orioles can afford to have a work in progress in the rotation going into 2014. The same is true of Brian Matusz, and even Jim Johnson (who wants to start also). Granted that with the exception of Chris Tillman the entire staff is a work in progress, however short of a spot start in a pinch I don’t think that the Orioles want bullpen guys moving into (or back into as it would be) starting roles.
I think that Hunter is extremely good in his role as a setup reliever. He’s been an innings eater and a bridge from the rotation to the back of the rotation. I suppose you can file this under the idea that things don’t always turn out the way that we want or expect, but that they turn out the right way. Hunter was expected and was expecting to start, and it didn’t work out that way. But he’s found his niche in the ‘pen, and he seems to really be effective out there. The Orioles should think twice about disrupting that. And if Hunter is really adamant about being a starter, then perhaps the Orioles could deal him to a team that’s willing to give him that opportunity.