SURPRISE, Ariz. -- This is not the way Tommy Hunter wanted Spring Training to go."This spring stinks," Hunter said after the Rangers' 11-8 loss to the Giants on Sunday afternoon at Surprise Stadium. "This is not what you want to do. I've got to keep going. I've got to get better." Pitching in front of a Surprise Stadium-record 12,014 fans, Hunter allowed seven runs in 3 2/3 innings. Only four were earned because of a dropped fly ball by Rangers center fielder Julio Borbon, but Hunter still has an 8.31 ERA after three outings this spring. "Today was ... shoot, I don't know what it was," Hunter said. "I've got to get better. That's the bottom line." Manager Ron Washington smiled when he heard Hunter's assessment of his outing and his spring. The manager is hardly down on his right-hander, only pointing out that six of seven runs scored off Hunter came with two outs.
2010 Spring Training - Major League Baseball
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"He got to two outs and a couple of times got two strikes on a hitter and couldn't put them away," Washington said. "But the ball was coming out of his hand good and he was throwing strikes."The Rangers still want Hunter in their Opening Day rotation, and he hasn't fallen out of the competition. In fact, he still has the inside track on one of the open spots. He doesn't have the "stuff" of right-hander Alexi Ogando or some of his left-handed competitors for the rotation. But he has proven to be a successful Major League pitcher by following the Rangers' pitching tenets of throwing strikes, working quickly, using all his pitches and getting the ball down. The Rangers haven't forgotten that Hunter was 13-4 with a 3.73 ERA in 22 starts last season, and they don't overlook that he is 22-10 with a 3.90 ERA in 41 starts and one relief appearance over the past two seasons. "His track record is important," Washington said. "As long as he's pitching and getting his work in, that's all that matters. This is Arizona -- there are a lot of things that happen down here that don't happen during the regular season. He needs to work on things and we're certainly going to give him that opportunity." Hunter had two problems Sunday. A scout sitting behind home plate said Hunter had a good curve and changeup but his fastball was "straight and hittable." Hunter's other problem was he threw that straight and hittable fastball too often. He threw a fastball on 44 of 71 pitches. That is 62 percent of the time. He threw it 53 percent of the time last season. "I'd still like to be effective with that pitch, but you shouldn't see me throw it very often," Hunter said. He struck out five, mainly because he had an effective changeup. "I really felt good and they hit the fastball," Hunter said. "I didn't go to Plan B fast enough." Hunter came to Spring Training believing he had to win a job. That may be the case because Washington said, "No decision has been made." But it still seems like it is his job to lose and Washington keeps indicating that Hunter has done nothing to lose it. Hunter is more upset about what is happening than his manager. "I came in here to earn a spot," Hunter said. "I know I can win. I know I can win in the big leagues. I need to get back to where I was last year."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.