Instant Analysis: Oklahoma/Round Rock (7/12)

ROUND ROCK, TX - Starting pitcher Tommy Hunter tossed seven shutout innings as Oklahoma defeated the Round Rock Express, 7-1, on Saturday night. Lone Star Dugout was on-hand to bring you quotes and analysis from the game.

• Oklahoma hurler Tommy Hunter was making just his third Triple-A start on Saturday, but he looked more like a seasoned big leaguer against the Round Rock hitters. The 22-year-old tossed seven scoreless against the Express, giving up just five singles. He struck out five and did not issue a walk.

"I felt good," said Hunter after the 7-1 victory. "I challenged with the fastball. That's what we did in the last outing. That was a pretty decent outing. I just came back and tried to repeat that outing."

In his previous start, Hunter went nine innings against Albuquerque, surrendering two runs on seven hits.

Hunter attacked the Express hitters on Saturday night with a fastball that consistently sat between 91-93 mph. He topped out at 94 three different times.

The pitcher was able to record 10 groundouts against only six flyouts in the game, but most scouts believe he will be more of a fly ball pitcher in the Majors due to his tendency to leave fastballs up in the zone.

Even with the issue, which can certainly be addressed, most scouts have been impressed with Hunter's ability to pitch and believe he could be a back-of-the-rotation starter for the Rangers by the end of the season.

Hunter was aggressive with his fastball.
When Hunter made his Double-A debut on May 19, he threw 32 curveballs. After that start, fellow pitching prospect Thomas Diamond created a bet to help Hunter focus more on the development of his third pitch – a changeup. From then on, Hunter could throw 20 curveballs per game. For each curveball over 20, Hunter was charged a five dollar fine.

Although Hunter threw somewhere in the neighborhood of 13 curveballs on Saturday, he says the bet is no longer in play.

"[The bet] got nixed," he said. "I think there was one outing where Rick Adair showed up and I only threw nine curveballs in eight innings. I got in a little bit of trouble about that. He said I needed to use that a little more. He brought Diamond over and said the bet's off."

Hunter now uses his plus curveball as he pleases, but he also does not rely on the pitch as heavily as he did earlier in the season.

"It's just one of those things where you go out and throw [the curveball] in the situations it needs to be thrown in to get your outs," Hunter explained.

Hunter's 80-84 mph changeup – which he threw approximately 14 times – continued to show improvement on Saturday. The pitch is still somewhat inconsistent, but it was extremely effective when thrown in the 80-81 mph range. The Indianapolis native says he has continued to focus on developing his third pitch since joining the RedHawks.

"We've still been working on the changeup," he said. "It is still pretty hard. We have been trying different grips and going in and out. Hawk [Andy Hawkins] and Rick [Adair] were there yesterday and two days ago in the bullpen. We worked on doing different things with it – trying to get it to where I can throw the pitch with enough velocity taken off."

In three Triple-A starts, Hunter has allowed five earned runs in 22.1 innings [2.01 ERA]. He has surrendered 21 hits, walked two and struck out 12. At this time last year, the Alabama product was still yet to sign his professional contract.

"I haven't signed yet," said Hunter of one year ago. "July 18th was the magic number. I was still probably fishing or doing one of the hobbies. I'd be out at the lake. I wasn't doing anything at this point – still waiting."

Less than one year later, Hunter sits one step away for the Major Leagues. However, Hunter says he tries not to think about a possible second-half call-up.

"That's something you really can't try to anticipate," replied Hunter when asked about joining the Rangers this season. "If it happens, it happens. I'm pretty pleased with what's going on right now. It's a wait-and-see process. If they see it as fit to go up there, then I'll go up there and try it out."

• Second baseman Joaquin Arias was plunked in the shoulder by Round Rock starter Runelvys Hernandez on the game's second pitch. Arias remained in the game until he was pinch hit for by Drew Meyer in the top of the second inning. Although he did not appear in the lineup on Sunday evening, Arias did take batting practice and appeared to be just fine.

Frostad had a home run and a walk.
• With Taylor Teagarden leaving for the MLB All-Star Futures game, catcher Emerson Frostad was brought up from Double-A Frisco to take his spot temporarily. Frostad made the most of his Triple-A experience by belting a two-run home run in his first at-bat.

"It was real nice," said Frostad of the round-tripper. "It's good to get the first one out of the way. I'm just really happy to be here and hopefully I can make the most of it. I'm happy to get off to a good start."

Even though Frostad expects his stay in Triple-A to be a short one, he hopes to show the Rangers that he can play at the level for the future.

"Even if I'm only here for a short time, hopefully I can show that I can play at this level and hopefully get back here if I do get sent back to Frisco"

• Third baseman Ryan Roberts stayed hot by going 2-for-4 with a double and a home run. His long ball was a solo shot to dead centerfield in the top of the second inning.

"Basically I was trying to stay relaxed – throughout any at-bat you try to stay relaxed," Roberts said of the home run at-bat. "I wanted to get something I can drive. Yesterday I was swinging at a lot of fastballs up, so I'm trying to lay off fastballs up. I was looking for something down that I can handle. I caught a fastball down the middle and I put a good swing on it and ended up hitting it out."

With multiple hits in five of his last eight games – including three home runs in that stretch – the Arlington native is in the midst of one of his hottest stretches of the season. Roberts gives all the credit to his hitting coaches.

"Working with our hitting coaches, we have a couple of great guys," he said. "They are helping out a lot and just trying to get me relaxed and take me back to the basics. Once you get into hitting and you start slumping, you start thinking about too much and worrying about this and that. You've got to go back to the basics and try to keep everything simple."

• The newest member of the RedHawks bullpen, right-hander Kiko Calero, was impressive on Saturday. The former Oakland A's pitcher needed just 14 pitches to strike out all three batters he faced in a perfect ninth inning. Calero has now struck out five batters in 2.1 innings with Oklahoma.


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