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Hunter makes heads turn with velocity in relief

Hunter makes heads turn with velocity in relief

Hunter makes heads turn with velocity in relief
BOSTON -- Right-hander Tommy Hunter's fastball topped out at 101 mph at Fenway Park during a perfect 11th inning Saturday afternoon.

"It got everybody's attention in here," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "To try to say nobody looks up there at the gun, sure you do. You try to see the speed on the breaking ball and the changeup. ... I don't know if you remember, the first day we got him in a trade [from Texas], we were in Kansas City, and we brought him out of the 'pen just to get his feet wet. He lit it up pretty good there, but nothing like he did yesterday."

Hunter was a closer at Alabama, and he led the staff in wins (seven), saves (five), innings pitched (107) and strikeouts (96) as a draft-eligible sophomore. Though he has reached the upper-90s on occasion as a starter, he knew on Saturday that he was throwing hard because catcher Matt Wieters stuck with the fastball.

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"No balls really were struck very well," said Hunter, "and Wiety kept calling it, so I knew I had to be throwing hard. Because usually he mixes it up a little better, but he just kept calling fastball to [Dustin] Pedroia. And I was like, '[Shoot], maybe I am throwing pretty hard.' And I just stayed with him and tried to throw the next pitch harder than the pitch before."

Showalter said that the expanded roster allows him to use the 26-year-old Hunter in short stints.

Hunter called pitching in relief "totally different" from being a starter and agreed that it's easier to let loose for one inning rather than pace himself through six or seven. Since moving to the bullpen after being recalled on Sept. 3, he has had seven consecutive scoreless outings, with nine strikeouts over eight innings.

But exactly how accurate were the readings at Fenway Park? MLB.com's Gameday also had Hunter in triple-digits, but with a maximum of 100 mph.

"OK, say it's off by two -- 99 is still pretty good," Showalter said. "Tommy is a big, strong guy. We've thought [all along] that if things didn't work out as a starter -- Tommy's pitched some good games as a starter -- that he could be a useful piece out of [the 'pen], too."

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