SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — Tommy Hunter knows there will come a time this season when he blows a ninth-inning lead to turn a potential victory into a frustrating defeat.
The manner in which the right-hander reacts to that disappointment could go a long way toward determining his success as the Baltimore Orioles' new closer.
"Baseball is failing man's sport and there's something to learn and take from every day," Hunter said. "You're going to have to forget what happened the day before, whether it was good or bad, because you're going to have to go out and perform the next day."
Hunter takes over for Jim Johnson, who had 50 saves last year before being traded to Oakland in a salary dump. Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette reached agreement on a two-year contract with Athletics closer Grant Balfour in December, but the deal fell through after Balfour failed the physical.
That opened the door for the 29-year-old Hunter, who has a fastball that has been clocked at 100 mph. He had four saves in six tries last season, so he at least has some experience in the role.
That leaves one big question: Does Hunter have the proper mindset?
Orioles pitching coach Dave Wallace says the most important quality of a closer is "the ability to have controlled emotion."
"The two guys who come to mind are (Dennis) Eckersley, who used his emotion, and Mariano (Rivera), who internalized it and carried it into a game," Wallace said.
The playful, fun-loving Hunter couldn't be much more different than Johnson, a quiet, no-nonsense individual. That won't matter when it comes time to protect a one-run lead with three outs to go.
"I have had John Wetteland, Eric Gagne, Jason Isringhausen, all different personalities when they get to the mound," Wallace said. "I don't think that's a real big key what they're like away from the game. It's what happens when they bring it into the ballgame."
Hunter broke into the majors as a starter with Texas in 2008 and went 13-4 in 2010. A strained groin limited his playing time the following season before he was dealt to the Orioles in July 2011 for Koji Uehara as part of the trade that enabled Baltimore to land slugger Chris Davis.
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