Rangers might move Tommy Hunter to bullpen temporarily

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Tommy Hunter posted a quality 3.73 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 128 innings last year and was all set to open the 2011 season as Texas’ No. 3 starter.

But he strained his groin at the end of spring training and has been on the disabled list since.

Hunter has made a number of rehab appearances, but the results have not been overwhelmingly positive and the Rangers are now thinking about a creative alternative. They want to change his role.

According to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the 24-year-old Hunter has begun making rehab appearances out of the bullpen at Triple-A Round Rock and could be used as a long reliever temporarily once he is medically cleared to return to the major leagues.

“It’s to see if he can do it, see how he recovers,” manager Ron Washington said. “That’s not in stone.”

The Rangers would certainly prefer to have Hunter at his best and a member of the rotation, but their starting pitching has been solid this season thanks to the emergence of Alexi Ogando and Matt Harrison, and Hunter could always make spot starts down the stretch if he begins showing signs of life in long relief.

Report: Mariners sign Juan Nicasio to a two-year deal

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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Mariners have signed pitcher Juan Nicasio to a two-year contract, pending a physical.

Nicasio, 31, spent last season with the Pirates, Phillies, and Cardinals, putting up an aggregate 2.61 ERA with a 72/20 K/BB ratio in 72 1/3 innings. He appeared in 76 games, leading the National League.

Nicasio will help bolster the Mariners’ bullpen behind closer Edwin Diaz. It’s not known exactly what role he’ll have but it seems reasonable to assume he’ll handle mostly the seventh inning while Nick Vincent will set up for Diaz. Nicasio does have plenty of starting experience so he could also spot start in a pinch.