ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers have activated Tommy Hunter from the disabled list with hopes that the right-hander who was supposed to be in their starting rotation can provide a needed boost to the bullpen.
Hunter injured his right groin on the same day he was named to the Rangers' rotation the last week of spring training. He was activated before Friday night's game against Florida when the AL West-leading Rangers designated struggling right-handed reliever Dave Bush for assignment.
Hunter made seven appearances at Triple-A Round Rock, the last three out of the bullpen. He had a save Thursday night when he struck out two while throwing 15 pitches, many of them in the mid- to upper-90s.
"Out of the bullpen, it's about throwing a fastball down and away. That's what I'm trying to do," Hunter said. "It's a different mentality, it's a different approach."
Manager Ron Washington said Hunter was available to pitch and could be used in different roles.
"If I need him to take us from where a starter finished and get us to the back of the bullpen, I won't hesitate to do that. If I need him right now to get us some outs in the eighth inning, I won't hesitate to do that," Washington said. "He's throwing the ball well, he's healthy. We know he's very resilient, so we're happy to have him back."
Rangers relievers allowed 12 earned runs over 15 1/3 innings the previous five games. Their 4.53 ERA was the third-highest in the American League.
"We want to give it a shot, see how it works out. The bottom line, you know Tommy is going to come in and take the ball and he's going to throw strikes. He's somebody our staff can trust to give the ball to," general manager Jon Daniels said. "He's resilient, has a durable arm. He wants the ball. ... What it does, it gives us options. Before we look externally, we want to exhaust all of our options internally."
Hunter was 13-4 with a 3.73 ERA in 23 games for the Rangers last season. His career record the past three years was 22-12 with a 4.45 ERA while starting 44 of his 45 games.
When the Rangers drafted Hunter as a supplemental pick after the first round in 2007, they also viewed him as a potential reliever. They liked what they saw in Round Rock.
"I think first it proves he's healthy, he has been for some time," Daniels said. "He got stretched out and then we put him in the bullpen, and our reports were that his stuff really played up out of the 'pen, kind of similar to what it did through college."
The Rangers could also be close to getting right-hander Darren O'Day back.
O'Day has been out more than two months because of a torn labrum in his left hip. O'Day also pitched for Round Rock on Thursday, his second appearance in three days, and was back in the Rangers clubhouse Friday.
Washington said O'Day, who had a 2.03 ERA in 72 appearances last season, could be back in the bullpen before the end of the weekend. The submarine-throwing O'Day had a 2.45 ERA in eight appearances this year before going on the disabled list and having surgery April 28.
"I feel good, much better than I was earlier this year. The delivery is more consistent and pitches are moving like they should be," O'Day said. "I was making my pitches much more consistent."
As for Hunter's role in the Round Rock bullpen, O'Day was impressed.
"I wish you could have seen it [Thursday] night," O'Day said. "The first pitch was 97. I thought the gun was wrong, and then the next pitch was 97, and then the next five were 96 and 97. ... You don't know what's going to happen until you're put in that situation, and it looks like it might have brought out the best in him."
Bush gave up a two-run homer Thursday and had allowed seven runs in his last three appearances to push his ERA to 5.79 in his 17 games. The Rangers have 10 days to trade, release or outright him to the minors.