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Hunter thriving as a reliever

Hunter thriving as a reliever

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TORONTO -- Since switching roles last season and working out of the bullpen, Tommy Hunter has turned his career around. The right-hander had mixed results as a starter in both Texas, which he broke into the big leagues with, and Baltimore. But he has been lights-out as a relief pitcher for the Orioles.

Hunter's successful transition to the bullpen can be largely attributed to the extra velocity he has generated. As a starter last season, his average four-seam fastball was 91-93 mph. But the pitch increased to 97 mph when he was recalled in September, a speed he has maintained this year, according to Brooksbaseball.net.

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In 12 1/3 innings in September, Hunter allowed just one run -- good for a 0.71 ERA -- while striking out 12. Over 40 1/3 innings this season -- the most among Orioles relievers -- and 29 appearances, Hunter sports a 2.23 ERA with 32 strikeouts and just seven walks.

Hunter believes pitching shorter stints has allowed him to enter games with more energy.

"Maybe adrenaline gets going a little more," said Hunter, whom the Orioles acquired along with Chris Davis from the Rangers in July 2011. "I wish I could have a recipe to tell you how to gain four, five mph, but there is really no recipe. I'm just going to keep going as hard as I can.

"I'm not really doing anything different. It's just about pitch location. [Hitters] haven't been on the same pitch with me, and that's a good thing as a pitcher when the hitters don't know what you are going to throw."

Hunter said he has basically ditched a two-seam fastball which he used a lot as a starter and is primarily working off a four-seamer, cutter, and curveball.

He still keeps the two-seamer in his back pocket, and will throw it to left-handers. With an arsenal that more resembles that of a starting pitcher, Hunter still has hope of working in a rotation again if given the opportunity.

"Oh yeah, who wouldn't? Anybody would," Hunter said when asked if he still wants to start. "If I told you I don't want to, I wouldn't be in my right mind. But it's the situation, not the time right now, and I'm going to do what I can to stay in the big leagues. As of right now, this is what I'm doing -- and I have a pretty good feel for the ball right now.

"It's all about getting outs. And the more outs you get, the more money you are going to make."

Chris Toman is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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