Coming off a rough couple years, Tommy Hunter joined the Rays on a spring invite and impressed, making the club as a setup reliever. Hunter has always had plus velocity, but never missed the bats associated with a flamethrower. Last season, the 31-year-old right-hander threw his 96-mph fastball considerably less, adding a cutter with great results, especially against lefty swingers. Already known for being stingy with walks, Hunter's career-best 11.5 percent swinging-strike rate fueled a 28.1 percent strikeout clip, well above his career 15.9 percent mark. The new arsenal induced batters to chase more and also resulted in a drop in homers. As hinted, the results versus left-handers were staggering, as Hunter held them to a .501 OPS, compared to .715 and .754 the previous two campaigns. Relievers are subject to sample size fluctuations, and Hunter has an injury history, including missing time with calf woes last summer, but if his cutter continues to be a wipeout pitch, more work in high-leverage situations is likely.
Hunter has agreed to a two-year deal with the Phillies worth approximately $18 million, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports. Tuesday was an eventful night, as it was first reported that the Phillies were landing Addison Reed, which turned out to be incorrect. They instead came to terms with Hunter, who will serve as one of their top setup men in 2018. The 31-year-old righty logged a 2.61 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 64 strikeouts in 58.2 innings for the Rays last season. He has 17 career saves, but most of those came in 2014 with the Orioles. Hector Neris would open the year as the Phillies' closer if they don't make more moves, but talks with Reed are reportedly ongoing.
Hunter notched his 24th hold in Friday's 13-6 extra-inning loss to the Red Sox, firing a clean eighth inning in which he recorded a strikeout. Hunter had an uncharacteristically rough August, generating a 4.40 ERA due to allowing a total of seven earned runs across five outings in a 14-day span. However, he's subsequently bounced back to form, posting six consecutive scoreless efforts in which he's logged five holds, posted his third victory, and lowered his ERA from 2.63 to 2.33.
Hunter recorded his 20th hold in Wednesday's 5-3 win over the Royals, firing a scoreless eighth inning. The veteran reliever has been dealing with his first difficult stretch of the season since the middle of August, so Wednesday's clean outing was a much-needed reprieve. Hunter had allowed six earned runs over his six appearances prior to Wednesday, and the seven earned runs he's allowed this month overall equals the amount he'd given up between April and the end of July. Even with the recent bump he's seen in ERA, his 52:12 K:BB over 49 innings, 1.00 WHIP and frequent success in hold opportunities keep him viable in certain formats.
Hunter notched his 16th hold in Sunday's 3-0 win over the Mariners, firing a scoreless eighth inning and recording two strikeouts. The outing was a typically dominant one for Hunter, the type that's largely been the norm for him in what's shaping up to be his best major-league campaign. Sunday, he needed only 10 pitches, eight of which he threw for strikes, to dispose of Guillermo Heredia, Ben Gamel and Leonys Martin. It was a strong rebound for the veteran reliever, who had uncharacteristically surrendered multiple runs in his last appearance.
Hunter (2-2) fired 1.2 scoreless innings in Thursday's 4-1 win over the Indians, recording three strikeouts. Hunter now has seven consecutive scoreless efforts, a stretch in which he's compiled four holds and both of his wins. The veteran reliever's current ERA (1.58) and WHIP (0.95) are career bests, while his 9.7 K/9 is also a high-water mark during his time in the majors.