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Hunter more valuable to Orioles in bullpen

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Hunter more valuable to Orioles in bullpen

As the general manager’s meetings begin in Indian Wells, Calif. today, there will be plenty of interest by the Orioles in talking with other teams.

Lots of the other teams will be checking with Orioles’ executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette about possible moves.

One player who may get a lot of attention is Tommy Hunter.

Hunter was the big prize in the July 2011 trade that sent Koji Uehara to Texas, Andy MacPhail thought.

In fact, it was Chris Davis, who was the big catch.

Hunter allowed 32 home runs last year, and that got him sent to both Norfolk and Bowie for remedial instruction.

After he returned in early September, Hunter was used exclusively in the bullpen, and he was much better. He allowed just one run in 12 2/3 innings.

He made the postseason roster and had two scoreless appearances against New York in the Division Series.

While Hunter might like to go back to starting, he’s of greater value in the bullpen. The Orioles seem to have lots of fine options there, but should listen to see if other teams have an interesting left fielder or second baseman.

Manager Buck Showalter is a Hunter fan. He enjoys his outgoing personality. He’ll enjoy it even  more if Hunter continues to shine in relief.

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Orioles fans cheer their hearts out for Manny Machado in return to Baltimore as a Padre

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Orioles fans cheer their hearts out for Manny Machado in return to Baltimore as a Padre

For the first time since he was traded last July, Manny Machado returned to Camden Yards as a visiting player when the San Diego Padres came to town Tuesday.

The Orioles faithful was very welcoming to Machado, who was a four-time All-Star in seven seasons with Baltimore. 

They cheered him loudly when he was announced during pre-game introductions, and Machado signed hats, balls and shirts for Orioles fans prior to first pitch.

He received a standing ovation when he entered the batter's box for his first at-bat in the first inning. The Orioles welcomes him as well, playing a tribute video on the scoreboard as he took the box.

The applause for Machado didn't last too long, though. In his first at-bat, he struck out looking, and the Camden Yards crowd erupted in cheers.

He'd get his revenge however in the third, launching a solo shot to give the Padres a 5-1 lead. Manny homeruns are something the Orioles crowd is used to, but seeing it help the opponent had to sting a little.

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Nerves, excitement define Manny Machado's first return to Baltimore

Nerves, excitement define Manny Machado's first return to Baltimore

It’s important to remember that Manny Machado *never* gets nervous. Not outwardly, anyway.

The uber-talented Machado came up in August of a pennant race back in 2012, as a 20-year old learning to play a new position on the fly. Instead of the nerves getting to him, Machado thrived. It was because of his defense the team returned to the postseason for the first time in more than a decade.

And yet, hours before his first career game in Camden Yards as a visitor, Machado admitted that while Monday night he was mostly excited, by Tuesday afternoon, that excitement had turned to nerves.

“I’m never nervous,” Machado clarified quickly to a group of reporters he knew quite well the last seven years in Baltimore. “But I don’t know, I guess it’s like a weird nervous in a way. It’s just different. It’s a different nervous, it’s always coming to the same clubhouse, walking through the same door, parking in the same parking spot, taking the same route to the baseball field every day...it was just all different today. It’s a good nervous though. It’s a good nervous.”

If Machado was telling the truth, he didn’t show it on the field during batting practice and warmups. The third baseman smiled and laughed as he spoke with fans, graciously took a few pictures, and generally looked like he was enjoying himself.

Machado has been the center of attention plenty of times in his baseball career, and that was clearly the case once again. Even Orioles manager Brandon Hyde offered to keep his media availability short and sweet to leave time “for the other guy,” and as his session wrapped up he called out “Manny time!”

Of course, while it might be “a little weird” for him, Machado also emphasized how excited he was to be back.

“Excited to be back, excited to see the fans out there and take third base again, like I did for a long time,” Machado described. “It’s gonna be a lot different. Excited to take that field again. Playing baseball, going out there, going to bring back a lot of memories...Just excited to take the field again in Baltimore at Camden Yards.”

Machado was struck by how many number 13 jerseys he saw around town Monday, and if that anecdote is any indication, he can probably expect a warm reception when he walks out of the visitor’s dugout. He’s clear that he has no expectations, though.

“I don’t expect anything...just to go out there and play baseball,” Machado said. “I’m going to see a lot of fans that supported me, and those fans will never be forgotten. It’s going to be fun to see those faces again.”

One thing is certain. Machado is definitely trying to enjoy every moment of his return.

“It’s completely different,” he reiterated to reporters. “I’m just trying to soak it all in. Trying to go out there, play baseball, take it one day at a time...it’s just a little different today that it’s playing in front of a crowd that I’ve known for the last 7 years, so who knows? Try to take it all in and enjoy myself.”

Ultimately, the memories in this town were too many to count for Machado, who admitted there were a lot of emotions running through him before the game. It was telling how often he kept repeating how this wasn’t just his place of employment for all those years; it was home.

Of course, the best homes have the best local food, and Baltimore is no different.

“You can’t leave Baltimore without crabs, so we’ll be having some tonight.”

Machado knows his audience, and if there’s one thing fans in Baltimore love, it’s athletes who talk about Baltimore crabs.

It almost seemed like he’s played here before.

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