Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Former Ranger and top prospect Tommy Hunter is another interesting case and he is my last Oriole who will possible not be thrilled with his 2013 role; his case is very similar to Matusz, as he went through much of the same trials and tribulations last year.
Hunter has one of the most-lively arms the Orioles feature and he has a winning attitude. The problem has been his inconsistency and his lack of command at some points while on the mound.
I think he has a great chance at becoming a strong and dominant starting pitcher, but he has things to work on and I’m sure he has been busy this off-season. There’s no doubt he will be fighting this spring, along with Matusz, at a shot in that high-demand rotation.
The Birds acquired Hunter in August of 2011, and has struggled as a starting pitcher since making his trek East. In 12 games (11 starts) at the end of ’11, he posted a 3-3 record with an inflated 5.06 ERA in 69.1 innings pitched.
After his first months as an Oriole were behind him, he came prepared for a shot at the rotation last year. Out of spring training, he made the rotation, and started the season off on the right foot.
Last April, he made five starts and sported a 2-1 record with a 4.26 ERA. However, it went downhill after that.
In May and June, he made 10 starts and recorded ERAs over seven in both months. Like Matusz, he was demoted to Triple-A Norfolk and spent about a month working out his kinks in the minors.
Different than Matusz, Hunter returned to the Orioles in August and returned as a starting pitcher. Again, he struggled and posted an ERA over seven runs per game, something the Birds were all too familiar with.
So, they shook things up and he landed in the pen for the rest of the year. Over his 10 relief appearances in September, he allowed just one earned run over 12.1 innings of work (0.71 ERA).
Along with Matusz, he was one of the most impressive arms out of the pen down the stretch. He completely re-invented himself in the bullpen, and that’s the big question come spring training.
Like Matusz, he most likely wants to pursue his career as a starting pitcher, but is that the best place for him? He showed a great attitude and the ability to adapt and change at the major league level last year. I think he did a great job out of the pen and I would love to see him in that role again.
However, with that being said, I do think he will have a shot to prove himself as a big league starter come spring training. There are a lot of options for the rotation, and with his struggles last year weighing on Showalter’s mind, I think it’s going to be tough for him to start out of the rotation. Maybe he can work his way into that role with a strong start to the year.
I think if he does start out of the pen, he will be disappointed with his role. He seems like he wants to be a team player and do whatever is best for the team, so he will do whatever they need him to do. But, in an ideal world, both him and Matusz would be starting pitchers.
I think it’s going to be a tough decision on Showalter’s part to decide what to do with all of these talented athletes, but that’s why he gets the big bucks. The Birds have a very strong team this season, and it should be very exciting.
Follow me on twitter: @Alex_VanRees