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Rays place Hunter on DL, promote righty Hu

Veteran's calf strain opens door for pitcher, who becomes club's first Taiwan-born player
Special to MLB.com

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays' bullpen took yet another injury blow on Sunday when veteran right-hander Tommy Hunter was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a right calf strain.

But Hunter's misfortune in becoming the 11th Tampa Bay player -- and fifth reliever -- on the DL after being forced out of Saturday's 6-3 victory over Houston turned into a whirlwind moment for 23-year-old righty Chih-Wei Hu, who earned his first promotion to the Majors from Triple-A Durham.

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ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays' bullpen took yet another injury blow on Sunday when veteran right-hander Tommy Hunter was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a right calf strain.

But Hunter's misfortune in becoming the 11th Tampa Bay player -- and fifth reliever -- on the DL after being forced out of Saturday's 6-3 victory over Houston turned into a whirlwind moment for 23-year-old righty Chih-Wei Hu, who earned his first promotion to the Majors from Triple-A Durham.

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Video: HOU@TB: Hunter injures himself covering first base

Hu, who is the first Taiwan-born player in Rays history, said he was sleeping in preparation for a Sunday afternoon start in Louisville when he received a late call from Durham manager Jared Sandberg to come down to the hotel lobby for a conversation. Admittedly confused, Hu met with Sandberg, who informed him he didn't need to worry about starting for the Bulls: He was heading to Tropicana Field to join the Rays.

"I was very nervous yesterday, and I just went to the bathroom and was just like, 'Man, I cried and everything,'" said Hu, who is 1-0 with a 3.94 ERA in three starts for Durham.

A fresh, light-blue No. 58 jersey hanging in his locker, Hu made his way around the clubhouse in the morning before the Rays capped their six-game homestand against the Astros, getting familiar with new teammates and staffers. Chris Archer was one of the first to congratulate Hu, welcoming him with a warm embrace and some words of encouragement.

"Honestly, I haven't seen him pitch in a game because he would pitch so late [during Spring Training], but I've heard good things," Archer said. "And he's going to definitely help us out."

Though it was too late to arrange last-minute travel plans for Sunday, Hu plans to fly his family from Taiwan to Baltimore to see him pitch in the U.S. for the first time when the Rays begin their three-game series with the Orioles on Monday. He said the last time his parents had a chance to watch him in person was during a 2014 international game. His sister hasn't seen him play since high school.

"My sister told me, 'I can't wait to come to America and watch you,'" Hu said.

For now, Hu, acquired from Minnesota in a 2015 trade for reliever Kevin Jepsen, wants to savor his first taste of being a big leaguer. And maybe even show some staying power.

"It's a dream come true," Hu said. "This is why I'm working hard."

Jeff Odom is a contributor to MLB.com.

Tampa Bay Rays