Deal allows Hunter to be close to ailing mother
MILWAUKEE -- Tommy Hunter could not have been traded to Chicago at a better time. It's not that the right-handed reliever didn't like pitching for the Orioles, but now that he's with the Cubs, he'll be closer to his mother, who is battling cancer.
Hunter grew up in Indianapolis, and his mother still lives there. She recently had surgery to combat kidney cancer.
"It was pretty rough," said Hunter, who picked up the save in the Cubs' 4-2 win over the Brewers on Saturay. "She's going through some surgeries now, and she had a good one [Friday] and it was successful. She's going through radiation and doing all of that. We found out maybe two months ago. It was bad timing at the time. Now, [I'll be] three hours away, and it'll be really cool."
Hunter said his mother had been cleared, but then went back for another checkup and the cancer was discovered.
"It's your mom, so it kind of [stinks]," he said. "Three hours away -- she'll be coming up [to Wrigley Field]."
Hunter had been dealing with the trade rumors and the bad news, and he was happy to focus on baseball Saturday.
"I went home at the All-Star break and it was huge for me personally," he said. "It's a really good chance for me to be close [to family] and a chance to win, which is important right now."
The Cubs acquired the right-hander from the Orioles for outfielder Junior Lake, and manager Joe Maddon planned on using Hunter in late-inning situations. Maddon didn't waste any time. On Saturday, Hunter was called on in the ninth with a runner at third and one out, and he retired the next two batters for his first save since May 9, 2014.
What surprised Maddon a little was seeing the scoreboard register 99 mph on Hunter's third pitch of the game.
"First two pitches I throw warming up go to the backstop, and then [Jean Segura] swings at the first one -- thank you," Hunter said. "Get the first one out of the way and hopefully some of the jitters go away. Winning is fun, man."
But is 99 mph something the Cubs can expect to see more of?
"That's pretty normal," Hunter said. "I'll creep up there, especially with the adrenaline. It's the first save situation I've been in. ... First time out, adrenaline. You're not going to see that every day. Well, you might. You never know."
It was the first pitch that fast that Cubs catcher Kyle Schwarber caught.
"It doesn't look any different," Schwarber said. "It still looks the same coming out of the hand. It just gets on you a little quicker."
Now all Hunter needs are some Cubs-colored shoes. He had to spray-paint his black and orange shoes because he didn't get new ones in time. He'll do whatever is asked.
"When you get the ball, throw it as hard as you can and hopefully you strike people out," he said of his approach. "I'm here to fit in and do whatever I can, whether it's the second inning or 11th inning."
Former teammate Pedro Strop greeted Hunter with a big hug. Hunter also was teammates with starters Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel in Baltimore.
"I'm not sure what they said about me," Hunter said, "but I'm sure you can believe everything they said."
Well, Strop said Hunter was "crazy" and Arrieta described him as a teddy bear. Hunter laughed.
"[Strop] was there in my prime," Hunter said.
Now, he's getting to know his new teammates.
"It's a new chapter," Hunter said.
And it's close to home.