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.
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."
Buck leaning toward Garcia for series finale
TORONTO -- The Orioles have yet to officially announce their starting pitcher for Sunday's series finale against the Blue Jays, but manager Buck Showalter has an idea of what direction he will go.
"We are leaning toward Freddy [Garcia, on Sunday] and [Zach Britton on] Monday, depending on how we get through [Saturday]," Showalter said. "It could change, but that's where we want to go for both their [sakes]."
If that scenario comes to fruition, Britton would get the ball against the Indians for the start of the four-game set in Baltimore. The left-hander, who threw a side session prior to Saturday's contest, has made two starts this season -- including one since being recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday.
Britton threw 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball against the Tigers in his first start since April, recording his first victory since Sept. 4, 2012, against the Blue Jays.
It's not out of the question, however, that Britton could enter in relief for Saturday's contest and still start Monday's game.
"He could pitch today if we needed him," Showalter said.
Garcia, meanwhile, last pitched an inning of scoreless relief vs. Detroit on Wednesday. In 10 games this season, including nine starts, the 37-year-old is 3-4 with a 4.80 ERA. Garcia faced Toronto earlier this season, picking up his first win of the year by throwing five innings of three-run ball on May 25 at Rogers Centre.
• Right-hander Steve Johnson, who has been on the disabled list since June 6 with a left oblique strain, played catch on Saturday for the first time since the injury, throwing 25 pitches from a distance of 60 feet.
• Wei-Yin Chen threw a light side session on Saturday, which went well according to Showalter. Chen, who has been on the 15-day disabled list since May 14 with a left oblique strain, is scheduled to throw four innings in a simulated game on Monday before beginning a rehab assignment.
Chris Toman is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.