The Blue Jays are finally beginning to see the Drew Hutchison they’d hoped for when the right-hander was named Toronto’s opening day starter. Sunday afternoon’s performance halted the Blue Jays’ two-game skid with Hutchison throwing 6.2 innings of one-run ball, allowing just three hits and striking out five. Still, the possibility remains that the club could skip his next scheduled start.
Off days on Monday and Thursday of this week and another coming on Monday the 24th could allow Toronto to go without Hutchison into late-August while still pitching David Price, R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Marco Estrada on their regular days of rest. While Hutchison has pitched extremely well at home in 2015, the current rotation would see his next appearance land in Los Angeles against Mike Trout and the Angels.
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The demotion of Aaron Loup could halt any talks of a move with Hutchison, as a corresponding move to be announced over the next two days should supply the Blue Jays with another reserve outfielder. This move also brings the bullpen back to seven men, which is perfectly normal, so would a temporary demotion of Hutchison benefit this roster enough?
Russell Martin‘s recent slump at the dish, during which he’s taken some very uncharacteristic hacks, could also factor into this. Perhaps the Jays choose to recall catcher Josh Thole to handle Dickey, drop Thole back down to AAA in late August to return Hutchison to the rotation then recall the knuckleball specialist once again when rosters open up on September first. A lot of moving parts here, but again, there’s options.
In my opinion, the Jays are walking a fine line with Hutchison right now. Is this recent start a sign of a late surge, or an outlier during a poor season? His vastly improved slider movement and fastball location suggest that this is sustainable at some level, and for a pitcher whose confidence has been beaten and battered throughout the season, a demotion following his biggest start seems entirely counterintuitive.
Keep in mind that a player optioned to the minor leagues is eligible to return to the MLB roster after 10 days have passed unless there is a need due to injury. Mark Buehrle has already had one start flipped back a day to recover from a grinding stretch, and it’s important to note the age of he and Dickey. The Blue Jays are dealing with a human being in Hutchison, something more than a roster spot, and if it’s at all possible to keep his young arm on the upswing without limiting the team’s flexibility, they should do so.