This morning’s report finished up this way:
The opener of the second 81 games got underway last night in far different fashion from the opener of the first 81, but I choose to dump memory of Houston 7, Texas 0 and focus on what feels like a huge game tonight, not because the struggling Marlins are coming in but because Alexi Ogando gets the ball and an opportunity to calm fears that he’s hit an insurmountable wall.
With O’Day and Feldman and Hunter each likely coming back sometime this month, the staff is about to take on a different look, probably one impacted not only by activations off rehab but by trades as well . . . . The nature of how all of that shakes out, though, is dependent in part on whether Ogando continues to get the ball every fifth day or if he’s instead headed back to the eighth inning, and the next data set to be fed into that evaluation comes in less than 12 hours, the first game of what it unquestionably going to be a fascinating month for this franchise.
We all know the reason that Alexi Ogando got the ball on April 5th and roughly every fifth day since then is that Tommy Hunter got hurt in camp, again, foiling the blueprint that had Ogando owning the eighth inning in 2011 the way he did in 2010, with Hunter once again holding down a spot in the back of the rotation.
Instead, Ogando is tied for a first-place team’s lead in wins, while Hunter may be on the verge of claiming the role that was supposed to belong to Ogando.
A closer for part of his draft year at the University of Alabama, Hunter has one big league relief appearance – a manufactured two-batter effort on September 28 last year as the club was getting its playoff rotation in order – and had only two other pro appearances out of the bullpen since his draft year (his first two games pitched in 2009 for AA Frisco).
But he’s going to have another on or before his 25th birthday (this Sunday), and if reports from Round Rock were accurate – that Hunter touched 96-97 on Thursday, mixing in a cutter at 90-91 – the eighth inning could be his before long.
In which case we can stop monitoring the trade rumors involving take-a-chance options like Todd Coffey (.385/.433/.577 slash in his last five appearances).
As eager as I was to see what Ogando had in his bag tonight, I may be even more fired up to see what Hunter looks like chugging in from the pen, getting all vicious in short doses.
That could change this thing. A lot.