BALTIMORE — A week after surrendering the closer job due to his early-season struggles, Orioles relief pitcher Tommy Hunter was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left groin strain.
The right-hander said he suffered the strain while throwing prior to Wednesday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Hunter was unavailable on Wednesday night and was replaced on the 25-man roster by right-hander Preston Guilmet, who had a brief stint with the Orioles earlier this month before being optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk on May 13.
“Anytime you do anything to move it around, it’s going to be sore,” Hunter said prior to Thursday’s series opener against the Cleveland Indians. “I shut it down as soon as it happened, so I went in and got treatment and showed up today.”
Hunter has a history of groin issues that dates back to his days with the Texas Rangers as the 27-year-old had a stint on the DL that lasted two months, but manager Buck Showalter is optimistic that the club was being proactive in shutting down the struggling reliever immediately to allow him to return quickly.
Named the Baltimore closer at the end of spring training, Hunter has a 6.06 earned run average and was 11-for-14 in converting save opportunities, but consecutive blown saves last week prompted Showalter to remove the hard-throwing pitcher from the role. Left-hander Zach Britton has converted the only situation the Orioles have had since Hunter blew a save against the Detroit Tigers on May 13.
It remains unclear whether the reliever will remain with the club for the next road trip or travel to Sarasota to continue treatment and rehab for the injury. Hunter made it known that the groin strain was not what was causing his struggles over the first two months of the season as he’s posted a 1.84 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) in 19 appearances spanning 16 1/3 innings.
“There is really no excuses for those [games], sorry,” Hunter said. “If that is what everyone is fishing for. I apologize.”
The 26-year-old Guilmet has appeared in two games for the Orioles this season, striking out three without allowing a run in 1 2/3 innings. Showalter was hopeful that Guilmet could provide some length out of the bullpen if necessary after Chris Tillman was knocked out in the second inning of Wednesday’s game at Pittsburgh.
Davis healthy and expecting
First baseman Chris Davis hopes to build on the momentum of Tuesday night’s three-homer performance in Pittsburgh and says the strained oblique that landed him on the 15-day DL in late April is no longer a factor as he tries to bounce back from a slow start to the 2014 season.
The 2013 All-Star selection quipped that his left elbow was hurting after being hit by a pitch on Wednesday, but his oblique has held up well since returning from the DL on May 11.
“The first couple of games I came back, I don’t want to say it was stiff, but it was almost like it was rusty,” Davis said. “I hadn’t done anything for a couple of weeks. But it hasn’t bothered me. There were a couple times this last series when I took some hard check swings, but stopping [my swing] was something that killed me. I didn’t feel it, so it’s good to know that it is behind me.”
Davis’ wife, Jill, is expecting the couple’s first child and is scheduled to be induced on Sunday morning, meaning the Orioles are planning for Davis to miss games on Sunday and Monday before rejoining the club in Milwaukee. Of course, that timetable would change if she goes into labor prior to then, and Davis will be placed on the paternity list, which allows a player to be removed from the roster for up to three days.
Infielders Jemile Weeks and Steve Lombardozzi are considered the prime candidates to take Davis’ place on the roster.
Santana making more progress
Veteran left-hander Johan Santana continues to impress in his rehabilitation from shoulder surgery as he threw 58 pitches in a four-inning outing in an extended spring training game.
Santana allowed one run on a home run and his velocity was once again in the upper 80s as his fastball was clocked as high as 90 miles per hour. Santana is expected to pitch in one more extended spring game before being assigned to pitch for an affiliate.
After signing the former two-time American League Cy Young Award winner in early March, the Orioles estimated that Santana would need until early June to continue rehabbing his surgically-repaired left shoulder, a timetable that appears to be very accurate as he continues making progress and increasing his velocity.
More baby news
Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and his wife, Amy, welcomed a baby boy named Colt shortly after midnight on Thursday morning.