Tommy Hunter is a major league pitcher again.
With his first major league game in about 13 months — after he believed his career to be finished following intense back pain that led to surgery last summer, when he was diagnosed with multiple disk herniations — the 35-year-old completed a comeback to begin his 15th big-league season.
“Felt good to be back. That’s why we play, and it was a long wait,” said Hunter, who said he feels “good. Healthy, finally.”
Hunter pitched 1 ²/₃ hit-less innings in which he allowed an unearned run and struck out two. The line would have been perfect if not for Eduardo Escobar’s throw to first base pulling Pete Alonso off the bag, enabling a base runner that Joely Rodriguez allowed to score in the 6-2 loss to the Marlins at Citi Field on Sunday.
This was the first time Hunter had taken a major league mound since May 18 last year, after which his back hurt enough that he could not lift his baby son, Rowan.
His wife, Ellen, encouraged him to attempt a comeback so he could have a picture as a major leaguer with Rowan.
“We got one the other day,” Hunter said with a smile. “Check that off the book, and now let’s play.”
The Mets can see whether the righty — who didn’t give up a run in eight innings last season — can help.
“Tommy, he ain’t scared,” said Buck Showalter, who suggested Hunter would be a multi-inning threat out of the bullpen. “That’s what Tommy’s here to do. He’s going to come in, for the most part throw it over, have some different looks.”
The Mets will have to shave one pitcher off their roster by noon Monday as MLB reverts to a 13-pitcher maximum per club.
Possible victims include Adonis Medina and Yoan Lopez.
“We have to make some moves,” Showalter said. “You gotta keep an eye on the options because there’s a limit to the number of options [five] you have.”
David Peterson is the Mets’ scheduled starting pitcher against the Marlins on Monday, but his pregnant wife is expecting any day.
“Is Peterson’s wife going to go in labor before he starts?” Showalter openly wondered, when asked about his concerns about the club.
Unless the Mets recall a starter, Trevor Williams would be the most logical fill-in. Williams most recently pitched 2 ¹/₃ innings on Wednesday.
James McCann played his third rehab game with Double-A Binghamton, going 2-for-4 with a walk. He has had 14 plate appearances in three minor league games.
Showalter declined to reveal how many at-bats the starting catcher would need before making his return, though he said McCann said he felt better beginning Friday.
“There’s got to be some feedback that he’s meeting some criteria other than just at-bats,” Showalter said of McCann, who has not played since May 10, after which he required surgery on his left wrist.
The Mets donated 500 tickets to local organizations in Queens for the game in honor of Juneteenth. Taijuan Walker, Nick Plummer and first-base coach Wayne Kirby spoke during a pregame luncheon for the organizations.