MILWAUKEE — Tommy Hunter could feel the adrenaline surging for his Cubs debut in front of Saturday night’s sellout crowd at Miller Park. His first two warm-up pitches flew toward the backstop.
Hunter calmed down and still hit 99 mph while closing out the Milwaukee Brewers, needing only three pitches to get the final two outs and pick up the save in a 4-2 victory.
The day after getting traded from the Baltimore Orioles in a deadline deal, Hunter explained his keep-it-simple approach to pitching: “When you get the ball, throw it as hard as you can.”
Once the Cubs added another weapon to their bullpen, several guys who played with Hunter before gave the scouting report. Jake Arrieta called him a big teddy bear. Jason Hammel predicted the media would love him. Pedro Strop…
“Pedey probably said I was crazy as s---,” Hunter said. “Well, I was a crazy son of a b---- when I was in Texas in my early days. I definitely had some of those (moments) and got it all out, though, for the most (part).”
Hunter had been a first-round pick for the Rangers in 2007, spending time in the Texas rotation before getting traded to Baltimore, where he emerged as a key piece for Buck Showalter’s bullpen while the Orioles matured into a playoff team.
“Pedey was there in my prime,” Hunter said. “And then I got married, a kid-on-the-way type of deal. He was there through the golden years, I guess you could say.”
Hunter got rolling when a reporter asked to explain a photo on his Twitter timeline. He’s giving the thumbs-up sign near a dude wearing a “KEEP CALM WE GOT TOMMY HUNTER” T-shirt.
“I hate to say it, but his daughter is pretty attractive,” Hunter said. “I was like the team goat, because we were trying to hook the daughter up with our bullpen catcher, so I worked for like a year to try to do that.
“Every day, during stretch, in the fifth inning, I’d go over there and try to talk to her and see how interested she was in (him). The dad started talking about hunting one day. And then when he started doing that, I’d start going over there just to listen to some of the dad’s stories.
“Season-ticket holders, hot daughter and our bullpen coach who’s single.
“Now you guys know the real story.”
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This must be why Hunter is so popular inside the clubhouse, coming across as completely comfortable in his own skin, able to relate to all different types of people.
But Hunter turned serious when he talked about growing up in Indianapolis, where his mother has been battling kidney cancer, undergoing radiation and recovering from a recent surgical procedure.
“Three hours away, man, it’s going to be really cool,” Hunter said. “She’s going to be coming up. I’m pretty excited about that. It’s a good chance right here for me to be close — and have a chance to win.”