PORT ST. LUCIE — Tommy Hunter came to spring training as a likely component of the Mets’ bullpen, and the odds of his sticking have increased with the team’s recent string of injuries.
Most notably, Edwin Diaz is expected to miss the season.
Last week, Sam Coonrod and Bryce Montes de Oca were also diagnosed with injuries that will place them on the injured list to begin the season.
Hunter, 36, is ready for another opportunity after he returned last year from back surgery that threatened his career.
Diaz’s absence will lead to shifting bullpen roles, but Hunter doesn’t view usage in higher leverage situations as a necessity for him.
“I like being the first one out of the bullpen,” Hunter said Saturday. “Fifth [inning], fourth sometimes, I don’t mind it. I am good at it. I don’t know how else to say it. Sometimes waiting around until the end of the game, it’s tough. That is why you see guys that don’t come out to the bullpen until the fifth or sixth inning. More times than not I have to be out there and ready to go.”
It’s that sense of humility that has made Hunter a favorite of Buck Showalter’s from their shared time together with the Orioles from 2011-15.
Last season Hunter appeared in 18 games for the Mets after arriving on a minor league contract at midseason and pitched to a 2.42 ERA. He agreed to another minor league deal with the Mets after the season.
“I like what I do and [Showalter] knows what I am pretty good at,” Hunter said. “I trust him, and I am not scared.”
David Peterson is scheduled to start and be followed by Tylor Megill for four innings apiece Sunday in a piggyback appearance.
Both are competing for the opening in the Mets’ rotation created by Jose Quintana’s absence — the left-hander is expected to miss at least half the season after undergoing bone-graft surgery Friday on his left fifth rib.
Megill and Peterson are enjoying strong Grapefruit League seasons.
The right-hander Megill has pitched to a 1.08 ERA in three appearances this spring.
The left-hander Peterson hasn’t allowed an earned run over three appearances, spanning eight innings.
The Mets optioned Ronny Mauricio and Joey Lucchesi to Triple-A Syracuse. Abraham Almonte and Jaylin Davis were reassigned to minor league camp.
A team bonding activity is on the agenda for Sunday night, when the Mets will convene for a crawfish boil arranged by Max Scherzer.
Earlier this month, the Mets held a talent show that received largely positive reviews.