Desperate to stop the bleeding in a bullpen that’s been unable to support already-poor starting pitching, the Orioles brought back right-handed pitcher Tommy Hunter before Sunday’s finale with the New York Yankees.
Hunter, 30, was released by Cleveland last week and rejoins the club with which he spent five seasons. The Orioles traded Hunter to the Chicago Cubs at the trade deadline last year in a cost-cutting move after he had pitched to a 3.63 ERA in 44 2/3 innings with Baltimore in 2015. Despite being maligned for giving up the long ball and failing in his brief stint as a closer at the start of the 2014 campaign, Hunter posted an effective 2.88 ERA in a combined 147 relief innings in 2013 and 2014.
Signed to a one-year, $2 million contract with the Indians this offseason, Hunter posted a 3.74 ERA in 21 2/3 innings in the first half before suffering a non-displaced fracture in his back when he slipped on some steps carrying his son during the All-Star break. He had made six minor-league rehab appearances this month before the Indians released him.
Of course, the Orioles’ struggles in long and middle relief are no secret as their bullpen ERA has risen to 3.75 to rank seventh in the American League after being at or near the top all season. Right-handed pitcher Oliver Drake was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to join Hunter as the newest additions to a carousel bullpen unable to bridge the gap to 2016 All-Star relievers Brad Brach and Zach Britton at the back end.
Of course, a starting rotation ranking 14th in the AL with a 5.01 ERA hasn’t helped matters at all.
To make room for Hunter and Drake, the Orioles designated left-handed pitcher T.J. McFarland and outfielder Julio Borbon for assignment.