My favorite thing about Tommy Hunter is that he has a name that's made for Baltimore. You can just imagine the full-throated die-hard fan from Essex screaming out, "C'mon, Hunner! Trow da ball innere and get da bum out!" Maybe I'm the only one who imagines this. It wouldn't be the first time.
So, Tommy Hunter. The other thing about him is that only a team with as awful a rotation as the Orioles had last year could have a place where Hunter might incubate and hatch into the innings-eating pitcher that seems to be his destined ceiling as a player, assuming, that is, he can avoid injuring his groin again, and avoid teams that will feast on his arsenal. "He comes right after the hitters," they will say, which is good when balanced against a Gregg-like walk rate, but not so good when facing AL East lineups full of big dudes who can hit baseballs a very long way.
He is starting the second game of the season for reasons unknown. More is made of rotation placement than ought to be, because the vagaries of off days often means that the No. 1 pitchers don't match up against the No. 1 pitchers, and so on. To say that Tommy Hunter is the No. 2 starter only means he will be starting the second game. Should we find ourselves in the situation where Hunter is in fact the second-best pitcher, that will not be good. Six innings, three runs: we will happily take these outings. A 4.50 ERA would have been the second-best starter ERA last year, come to think of it. But if he can eat the innings, and some games the offense will score and some games it won't, that's life.
His opposite number tonight is Francisco Liriano, an enigma of a pitcher. Once an electric rookie, way back in 2006 when he had a 2.16 ERA and over 10 K/9, his star has fallen (elbow surgery), risen and fallen again since. 2010 saw him strike out more than a batter per inning, with a BB/9 below 3, 191.2 IP of 3.62 ERA that may have been lower if not for some bad BABIP luck. In 2011 the Ks were down, the walks were up, the homers were up, and he ended with an ERA over 5 that would have fit in perfectly with the Orioles. What version of Liriano will be seen in 2012? O's fans would love to see him set on another disastrous path if the team was crushing baseballs.
How much different of a lineup will we see with a lefty starter? The answer lies below the jump.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||MINNESOTA TWINS|
|Nolan Reimold - LF||Denard Span - CF|
|J.J. Hardy - SS||Jamey Carroll - SS|
|Nick Markakis - RF||Joe Mauer - C|
|Adam Jones - CF||Justin Morneau - DH|
|Matt Wieters - C||Josh Willingham - LF|
|Mark Reynolds - 3B||Chris Parmalee - 1B|
|Nick Johnson - 1B||Danny Valencia - 3B|
|Ronny Paulino - DH||Ben Revere - RF|
|Robert Andino - 2B||Alexi Casilla - 2B|