Now that Fernando Rodney has reportedly agreed to a two-year, $14 million contract with the Mariners, Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com writes that Tommy Hunter is expected to take over the closer role for the Orioles.
Of course, that wasn’t the original plan. After the Orioles traded Jim Johnson to the Athletics in early December, they soon agreed to a two-year, $15 million deal with Grant Balfour. However, the signing was nixed due to concerns raised in a physical and Balfour eventually landed with the Rays. While the Orioles were linked to Rodney, they will now go in-house to replace Johnson.
Hunter was a full-time reliever for the first time last season, posting a 2.81 ERA and a 68/14 K/BB ratio over 86 1/3 innings. He also notched four saves. The 27-year-old right-hander has experienced a big velocity spike in the bullpen, though it hasn’t translated to an elite strikeout rate. Hunter doesn’t induce grounders like Johnson did and left-handed batters have been a trouble spot for him, so it might not be a smooth transition.