While the Baltimore Orioles traded away All-Star closer Jim Johnson, they had an excellent replacement in Tommy Hunter. For the Orioles in 2013, Hunter was solid. He posted a strong 2.81 ERA with an outstanding 0.98 WHIP. Hunter is now ready to step up, and succeed in the closer’s role.
The Orioles acquired Hunter along with Chris Davis for relief pitcher Koji Uehara at the trading deadline in 2011. Hunter struggled mightily as a starter with the Orioles, but he quickly found success in a relief role. In September of 2012, Hunter was impressive out of the bullpen and allowed just one earned run in 12.2 innings pitched. He was able to carry over his late season success into 2013, and he established himself as a quality relief pitcher.
While Hunter has posted low strikeout totals during his career, he has the talent to become a dominating closer. He has an explosive fastball that can reach the high 90s, and he has exhibited tremendous control. Hunter walked just 14 batters in 86 innings last year, and he owns a 2.0 BB/9 for his career. With his blazing fastball and control, Hunter can overpower the opposition.
Even with the loss of Jim Johnson, the Orioles’ bullpen will be strong with Hunter in 2014. While Hunter does not have closing experience, he should excel as the Orioles’ closer. He is an extremely talented pitcher, and he is just entering the prime of his career at 27 years old. He should be in line for a breakout season, and he should evolve into an excellent closer.