Hard Work Paying Off for Hunton

Following an up-and-down 2005 season, right-hander Jonathan Hunton knew he had to make a few changes. One of them was to his physical frame, as Hunton shed over 25 pounds in the offseason to strengthen his tall, 6'9" stature.

The changes have shown so far. In 10 appearances with Class-A Daytona this season, Hunton has allowed two earned runs in 13 1/3 innings, and just one in his last nine games for a 1.35 ERA. He has 12 strikeouts to one walk.

Drafted out of Lamar University in the 11th round of the 2004 draft, Hunton's tall physique and low-90s fastball had made scouts take notice in the Southland Conference. He had weighed in at 230 lb in college, but last year had gotten as high as 252 lb.

The weight loss is one of three key factors that the 23-year-old Hunton now points to for his fast start in 2006.

"I was 230 throughout college," Hunton notes. "My first year in Boise (2004), I started gaining weight, but eventually lost it. I did the same thing last year and told myself that I couldn't keep gaining weight and then losing it, that there had to be some way to lose it and keep it off."

Thanks to a strict offseason workout regime, Hunton succeeded. Like many Americans, he admits that fast food played a big role in his weight gains the past two seasons.

Last year, Hunton got off on the right foot at Peoria, holding opposing hitters to a .167 average against while boasting a 0.87 ERA in his first month with the full-season Class-A team. But what followed was a disastrous stretch in May, when he gave up 17 runs in 6 2/3 innings and eventually found himself demoted to Boise less than a month later.

While the weight loss has certainly aided him in stamina, there have been two other notable changes to Hunton's makeup that have led to better results so far this season. One of them is his composure, which he admits was shaky at times a year ago.

"I'm not as worried about things as I was in my first couple of months last season," Hunton said. "I have a fresh slate and I'm only concentrating now on where I'm throwing the ball. My problems in the past were because I thought entirely too much on the mound. I'm no longer worried about things like the umpire's strike zone, or my mechanics."

Hunton mentions his mechanics nonchalantly at first, but later admits they have been the third key to his newfound success. After being sent down from Peoria last season, he says he had a chance to highlight everything that was plaguing him early on in the season once he got to Boise.

Once there, Hunton began making proper strides to correct his mistakes and carried that work over into the offseason.

"With my mechanics the way they were at the time, I had a tendency to fall forward on the mound," he says. "Now I'm staying back and getting my arm up quickly."

Daytona pitching coach Tom Pratt guided Hunton at Peoria during the first two and a half months of last season and was quick to compliment the right-hander on his turnaround this year.

"Last year, he only flashed signs of what he's capable of doing," Pratt said. "I know he totally dedicated himself to strict offseason programs and it's really shown this year. Now, it's no longer just a flash of what he can do, but consistent signs every time out. He's throwing really well."

With a fastball that ranges from 90-92 mph and a quick slider that has topped out as high as 88 mph this season, Hunton is only looking ahead instead of in the past.

"Everything around me has been a comfort zone this year," he added. "In the offseason, I wanted to be here in Daytona come 2006. I've lost the weight, I'm healthier and I feel good. The players around me make me feel good. It's just a good aura here and it's helping me pitch well."

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