Indians taking aggressive Hunter along slowly

Hard-throwing right-hander recovering from multiple core-muscle surgeries

Indians taking aggressive Hunter along slowly

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Tommy Hunter had been waiting for this day for months. Cleveland has had the hard-throwing reliever on a tight leash over the past few weeks, but he hoped for a little slack for his first bullpen session of Spring Training on Monday morning.

No such luck.

"We'll have like six guys over there holding him down," Indians manager Terry Francona quipped.

Kidding aside, Monday's mound workout was an encouraging step for Hunter, who plans on doing everything in his power to join the Indians' bullpen as soon as possible. Hunter understands that day might not arrive until late April or May, given that he underwent multiple core-muscle surgeries and had a couple setbacks over a discouraging offseason.

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Prior to his first bullpen session, which went without incident, Hunter had been limited to doing mound drills without throwing a baseball this spring.

"It's been miserable," said the reliever.

Hunter's personality is about as aggressive as his fastball, so the Indians have had to do their part in slowing him down some this spring. The training staff has met with him to go over the detailed plan for his comeback, and the reasons behind certain drills or the gradual steps. Cleveland does not want to take any shortcuts and the righty had bought in.

"If it were up to me, I'd try to be throwing right now," Hunter said. "But, they sat me down and really talked about the needs and things that I needed to be able to do. Then, you start understanding why you do some of these things and why it's such a process. With me, I'm not much of a process guy. I'm going for results."

The results were especially strong for Hunter over the 2013-14 seasons, when he posted a 2.88 ERA with a 4.35 strikeout-to-walk ration in 128 games (147 innings) combined for Baltimore. Last year, Hunter had a 4.18 ERA in 58 games for the Orioles and Cubs, who acquired him via trade on July 31. Roughly a week into the offseason, the pitcher required his first core-muscle surgery.

At one point over the winter, Hunter reached an agreement on a reported two-year, $12 million contract with the Yankees, but he failed a physical with New York and the deal fell apart. The Yankees' concerns were unrelated to his core and groin issues, though. Cleveland did its homework and gave Hunter a full physical, which included MRI exams on his throwing elbow and shoulder, among other tests.

The Indians did not find anything that gave them hesitation and Hunter signed a one-year, $2 million contract that includes $1 million in performance bonuses.

"It was rough, but things fell into place," Hunter said of the offseason negotiations. "Things all happen for a reason. It's one of those deals where these guys are making you feel like you're a part of something. The training staff is good and the guys are good."

Neither Hunter nor right-hander Craigh Stammen (right forearm) are expected to be ready in time for Opening Day, but Francona likes knowing those two arms will be available at some point.

"It's nice. They're veterans. They know how to do it," Francona said. "My guess is at some point they're really going to help us. We don't know when that is yet, and they don't either, really. But, they're going to really help our bullpen."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.