BAL@SEA: Hunter hurls two innings of scoreless relief

BALTIMORE -- Tommy Hunter has been steady out of the Orioles' bullpen this season, thanks in part to his mid-90s fastball.

Since he gave up two earned runs in an inning against the Red Sox in his third appearance of the season, Hunter has been rolling. In 30 1/3 innings pitched since that outing entering Monday, he's given up just four earned runs and struck out 24 batters to go with five walks.

He credits Baltimore bullpen coach Billy Castro with helping him emerge as a trusted option out of the 'pen.

"Billy Castro has been helping me out a lot," Hunter said. "Sitting down here and going over pitch selection, I guess. So making a better pitch selection is making me into a better pitcher, I guess. I mean, that's the only thing I can really attribute it to."

Compared with his career numbers, Hunter is striking out a higher percentage of batters, walking fewer batters and giving up a lower percentage of extra-base hits. Has he changed his pitch variety this season?

"Nope, just starting to spot up some different pitches and everything is starting to work right now," he said. "It's a fun time, kind of like a hitter clicking -- I guess I'm clicking as a pitcher. Hopefully, like I said, that continues."

He's a former starter and he said being a reliever is more difficult because he has to be ready to pitch every night and prepare for three teams on a road trip.

When things are going well for him, he said it's because he keeps the ball low in the strike zone and has a good mix of pitches to work with. He also said the defense has been stellar behind him so far this season, which is a big reason some of the balls put into play have been turned into outs instead of falling for hits.

Still rehabbing, Roberts happy to be around O's

BAL@TB: Roberts appears to injure leg while sliding

BALTIMORE -- Brian Roberts was in the Orioles' clubhouse before Monday's game against the Angels. The second baseman, working his way back from hamstring surgery, traveled north with the team from Florida from his rehabbing post in Sarasota.

It's not necessarily a step forward in his rehab process, but he says he's getting close and is happy to be around the action again.

"It's great to be back, certainly," Roberts said. "You feel kind of isolated on an island down there, so it's always good to be around the guys. It's always good to feel like you're part of the team."

His presence Monday didn't come as a complete surprise, as there had been some talk about him flying back with the team when it returned to Baltimore after a series with the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg. But he talked it over with manager Buck Showalter and others in the organization and decided it was the best move.

"No, it doesn't make it any faster necessarily," Roberts said of his recovery timetable. "But that way they see a little bit more of what's going on. They know where we are in the progression. I don't think we have a timeframe still at this point but, you know, I think we're certainly in the home stretch."

The next hurdle he'll have to clear before being sent on a Minor League rehab assignment is running unrestrained and being "explosive" again.

Showalter said the medical staff's approval is important, but that the veteran Roberts will be a critical voice in deciding when to go on a rehab assignment, which would likely only be a small handful of games.

"I'm going to lean on Brian. He knows the level of what's got to be done here," Showalter said. "I'm going to lean toward what Brian's telling me. I think he's earned that and deserves that. More importantly, I trust him in that he's not going to say, 'I'm ready,' unless he feels like he is."

Roberts, who hasn't played a full season since 2009, was sentimental Monday about the chance to be back in the same room with the Orioles, the only club he's played for.

"There's nothing that compares to being in this atmosphere," Roberts said. "And you don't get to do it for a real long time, all things considered, in your career and in your life span. So every chance I get to be in this atmosphere, I want to be in it. I don't know how much longer I have to be in it and I want to be around it as much as possible."

Worth noting

• The Orioles had eight extra-base hits Sunday in the series finale against the Rays. That was the most since September 26, 2012. And their 16 hits in the game mark the third time they've done it this season, one more than they did in all of '12.

• Monday is the first home game Baltimore has played against the American League West this season. They're 9-5 against that division entering the series against the Angels.

• Triple-A Norfolk infielder Zelous Wheeler was named International League Player of the Week for the week of June 3-9. He led the league in hits (12), home runs (four), RBIs (11) and runs scored (eight).