Hunter Drew Strickland
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 5", Weight 200 lb.
- High School Pike County High School
- Debut September 1, 2014
Hunter Strickland is a pitcher who made his major league debut with the San Francisco Giants in 2014.
Strickland was picked by the Boston Red Sox in the 18th round of the 2007 amateur draft. He was signed by scout Rob English and made his pro debut that summer. He was 0-2 with a 6.04 ERA for the 2007 GCL Red Sox, allowing a .357 batting average. In 2008, he made major strides with the Lowell Spinners, improving to 5-3, 3.18. He tied for the team lead in wins and just missed the top 10 in ERA in the New York-Penn League.
In 2009, Strickland started off 5-4 with a save and a 3.35 ERA for the Greenville Drive, walking only 13 in 83 1/3 IP. He was then packaged with Argenis Diaz in a deal to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Adam LaRoche. He then went 4-2, 3.77 in 8 starts with the West Virginia Power, in the same league, for a combined record of 9-6, 3.49. However, he took a step back in 2010, when he went 2-5, 5.53 between West Virginia and the Bradenton Marauders of the Florida State League. He then missed the entire 2011 season to an injury. He came back in 2012, going 2-2, 2.98 as a starter with Bradenton before earning a promotion to the Altoona Curve of the Eastern League, where he was converted to a reliever. He was 2-2, 4.46 in 23 games in his new role.
Strickland failed to earn a spot in the Pirates' organization at the start of the 2013 season and was placed on waivers. Luckily for him, he was picked up by the San Francisco Giants, who decided to continue the conversion to a full time relief pitcher, but against a lower level of competition, with the San Jose Giants of the California League. He started off red hot, with an ERA of 0.86 and 9 saves in his first 20 games but suffered an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. He managed to come back quickly, as exactly a year later, he was back on the mound with San Jose in May of 2014. His progress from that point forward was astonishingly fast. After three outings with San Jose, he was promoted to the AA Richmond Flying Squirrels, where he quickly earned the role of closer. In 38 games, he went 1-1, 2.02 with 11 saves. He flashed a fastball that regularly hit triple digits on the radar gun and resulted in 48 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings.
The Giants were intrigued by Strickland and called him up on August 31st, just before the deadline to be eligible for postseason play. He made his big league debut the next day with a scoreless inning of relief against the Colorado Rockies. He ended up making 9 appearances for the Giants, not giving up any runs in 7 innings, walking none and striking out 9. He was the winner against the San Diego Padres on September 27th, in his final regular season appearance. He pitched three times in the NLDS against the Washington Nationals, the highlights of which were picking up the save in the Giants' 2-1 win in Game 2, which lasted 18 innings, the longest game in postseason history, on October 4th, and getting credit for a 3-2 win in Game 4, after allowing the tying run in the 7th inning. He struck out 4 in 3 innings, but gave up three runs, all of them the result of solo homers. He made only one appearance in the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 2, when he gave up a solo homer to Matt Adams in an inning and a third; that run gave the Cardinals a 4-3 lead, but he escaped being tagged with a loss when the Giants tied the game in the top of the 9th. He then pitched a scoreless inning to close out a 7-1 win over the Kansas City Royals in Game 1 of the World Series, but in Game 2, he had a horrendous outing coming in relief in the 6th inning with the Royals having taken a 3-2 lead and threatening to break the game open: he let them do just that by throwing a wild pitch, then allowing a two-run double to Salvador Perez and a two-run homer by Omar Infante, without getting anyone out. When Perez crossed the plate on the homer, he exchanged angry words with him, prompting both benches to empty, but he apologized after the game, explaining that he was mad at himself and had let his emotions get the best of him. The five home runs allowed by a reliever in a single postseason tied an unenviable record held by Chris Narveson of the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers. He made it six gopher balls when Mike Moustakas went deep off him in a meaningless situation in Game 6.
On May 29, 2017, he plunked Bryce Harper on the hip with a 98 mph fastball, after which Harper charged the mound and a bench-clearing brawl erupted. An incensed Strickland had to be dragged off the field by three teammates to prevent further nastiness. It seems that the pitch was in retaliation for an incident dating back to the 2014 Division Series, when Harper had homered twice off Strickland and jawed at him following the second of these long balls. They had not faced each other since, hence the unusually long delay in seeing the other shoe drop. He was handed a six-game suspension the next day, while Harper was suspended for four games. His appeal of the disciplinary ruling was rejected, and he began serving his suspension on June 19th. He went 4-3, 2.64 with 1 save in 68 games. In 2018, he began to be used as closer in the absence of Mark Melancon and had already notched 13 saves, after compiling 5 in his first four seasons, when he went on the disabled list on June 18th when he broke a bone in his hand after punching a wall in frustration, the result of blowing a 4-2 lead against the Miami Marlins. He missed exactly two months, returning on August 18th, but he had lost the closer's job by then. He recorded only one more save the reste of the way, finishing at 3-5, 3.97 in 49 games, with 14 saves.
He became a free agent following the 2018 season, and the wall-punching incident probably caused him a significant loss of revenue as well, as on January 27, 2019, he finalized a one-year contract with the Seattle Mariners for $1.3 million. He could likely have earned significantly more money had he managed to hold on to the closer job for the entire season. In any case, having traded closer Edwin Diaz in the off-season, the Mariners installed Hunter as their closer, and he got off to a good start, pitching a perfect 9th inning to preserve a 9-7 win over the Oakland Athletics on Opening Day, which exceptionally was played on March 20th at the Tokyo Dome in the Japanese capital. He then doubled down by picking up a second save in the second and last game of the season-opening series the next day. However, in his next appearance, against the Boston Red Sox, he blew a 9th-inning lead by allowing a three-run homer to Mitch Moreland, and was charged with the 7-6 loss. The following day he went on the injured list with a grade 2 strain in a lat muscle. He was expected to be out for two months.
Primary Source: 2009 Red Sox Media Guide