Japanese right-hander Shohei Otani announced back in October that he was planning to break tradition and jump from his high school (Hanamaki East) right to the professional ranks in the United States, skipping a career in Nippon Professional Baseball altogether. But it’s not going to happen. According to Japanese reporter Yasuko Yanagita, Otani has decided…
CLEVELAND—There was a most unusual sight for Orioles fans on Saturday. Tommy Hunter was trotting in to pitch, and he was pitching against the Orioles for the first time since he was traded to the Chicago Cubs last July.
Hunter, who signed with Cleveland in February, allowed two runs in the seventh inning against his old team.
“It’s terrible. You want to strike everybody out…I talked to a couple of them after the game. It was like, man just take three groundballs and let me be on my way, so and then hanging a pitch to [Adam Jones], I just started laughing, not really laughing. I was really…upset,” Hunter said.
“I was like, ‘Man, I should just put this ball on the grass, and he’s going to go swing at it.’ But, of course, Jonesy takes care of hanging breaking balls. It was kind of hard, you just don’t look up, just try and keep your head down and go. It was some pretty good friends, but you never want to give up two runs.”
Hunter is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in 10 games with Cleveland.
After the Orioles traded him to the Cubs, he got to reunite with Jake Arrieta, and seeing a different pitcher than he had before was exciting.
“Man, watching Jake throw was pretty incredible. One of the best pitching experiences I’ve ever seen. Maybe some other people will argue it was the best in the history of the game. Being able to witness that, and somebody that went through as many hardships and struggles as he did, come out on top and be the guy he is today, what kids are looking up to, it was fun to watch and be there in person and see him blossom like the young little tulip he is,” Hunter said.
Manager Buck Showalter didn’t have a chance to connect with Hunter this weekend, but he is very fond of him.
“Tommy is easy to like. He plays hard. He pitches hard and he’s a great teammate,” Showalter said.
“Tommy, you pull for him. It’s easy to pull for him. I wasn’t pulling for him last night, but Chris [Davis] and him are real close, but Chris is trying to get a hit and he trying to get Chris out. You pull for him, but not against you. Tommy is easy to pull for. His teammates pull for him. He’s not just some funny guy.”
CLEVELAND—T.J. McFarland was scheduled to start for Norfolk on Sunday against Scranton. However, he was scratched from the start in case he’s needed by the Orioles.
McFarland injured his left knee last weekend and has been on the minor league disabled list.
Manager Buck Showalter said that McFarland’s knee was fine. Andy Oliver was named to replace McFarland, but the game was postponed. The Orioles did contemplate adding McFarland for Sunday’s game because they had no fresh long reliever since Vance Worley pitched 4 ½ innings on Saturday.
“Just to be on the safe side. He still could pitch an inning there if he had to. Just want to make sure we’re covered. There was some thought about today, but it didn’t happen,” Showalter said.
Atop the majors with a 23.4 walk percentage, Bryce Harper is being pitched around more often than anyone this season. Both that approach from opposing teams and his struggles with not getting pitches to hit have been well-documented.
The St. Louis Cardinals, however, have been an outlier this season when it comes to how they've handled Harper. He's only walked twice in 25 plate appearances against them. That's an eight percent walk rate, about a third of his season average. He's struck out in 32 percent of his PAs against the Cardinals (8 SO in 25 PA) - much higher than his 18 percent season average - and is batting just .130 through six games vs. the Cards. Only the Mets have held him to a lower OPS than the .591 mark he has against St. Louis.
The Cardinals have been pitching to Harper and it hasn't hurt them all that much. He has three hits in six games and two are homers, but both were solo shots.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny spoke about the team's approach to Harper this weekend.
"Typically, a solo home run shouldn't beat you," Matheny said. "We do pitch him carefully. We have in the past and we'll continue to. A lot of it has to do with how he's swinging at the time and what the matchups look like and who's hitting around him. All that goes into the decision."
"We've had a little success against him, not that that's always going to continue because he's a good hitter, but when we had him at home we were pitching him tough and we were able to get outs. When you're able to do that, you try to stick with the approach that's working."
A 13-year MLB veteran before he went into coaching, Matheny was a catcher during the days of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, and then when Barry Bonds was setting records with the San Francisco Giants.
Matheny knows there comes a time when hitters can get so hot there is just no point in pitching to them.
"Who's a guy we want to stay away from, is there somebody in the lineup you don't want to beat you and is there enough depth to where you can't do that?… Bonds had good players around him, but when he was hot there were just times where he just wasn't going to [allowed to] beat you. I could see Harper being viewed the same way," Matheny said.
"There were times in Barry Bonds' career was the best player on the planet and you couldn't get him out… There were times when Sammy was the hottest hitter in baseball and you just weren't going to let him beat you. I don't care who was hitting behind him. This kid, obviously he can be included in those kinds of conversations."
Ben Standig contributed to this report