The details on Drew Hutchison’s Sunday start
The Toronto Blue Jays are set to recall 2015 opening day starter Drew Hutchison to make a spot start on Sunday in the series finale against the Oakland Athletics.
Overshadowed by the news earlier in the day that Blue Jays first baseman Chris Colabello had been suspended 80 games by Major League Baseball after testing positive for a performance enhancing substance, the news of Hutchison’s Sunday recall signals an early beginning to John Gibbons‘ rotation strategy.
With the young Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman both seeking out their first season of 25 or more starts, these extra days of rest along the way will buy Toronto added weeks of endurance at the end of the season. The same goes for Marco Estrada, who began the season on the disabled list after a career-high workload in 2015, and J.A. Happ, the left-hander who has struggled to work deep into games across his career.
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Toronto is currently fielding an eight-man bullpen after lefty Chad Girodo was recalled in place of Colabello prior to Friday’s 8-5 loss. Girodo was one of the game’s few bright spots, allowing just one hit over two innings of shutout ball and forcing four ground ball outs, but his remaining minor league options could make him a candidate for a quick bounce back to triple-A. The same could go for ambidextrous veteran Pat Venditte, who has options remaining.
Hutchison has spent the past 12 months sliding slowly down the organizational depth chart in Toronto, due in part to both his own performance and the added depth around him.
After struggling mightily in 2015 with a 5.57 ERA over 150.1 innings, he entered the offseason as a contender for a breakout, or “comeback”, 2016 season. That quickly turned into a fight for a starting job however, and once the Blue Jays entered into the heart of their spring training, it became evident that the 25-year-old would be on the outside looking in.
His numbers in triple-A have not been largely impressive, but he’s done enough to be the first man up for this spot start. After two very strong starts to open the season, combining to allow just two earned runs over 9.1 innings while striking out 14, Hutchison ran into trouble five days ago against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
In that start, the right-hander allowed five earned runs on ten hits over six innings. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out six, but there were very few missed bats.
Once Hutchison completes the game on Sunday, he should be optioned back down to the Bisons at which point the Blue Jays are likely to recall a more direct replacement for Colabello. Given the current hip injury to Troy Tulowitzki, the extent of which is unknown, and the easy-to-overtake Ezequiel Carrera and Justin Smoak, any bat that is recalled will be met with opportunity.
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Not only is the timing of this move interesting, but so is the opponent. Friday’s eight-run outburst doesn’t portray this, but the Athletics have been one of baseball’s poorest offensive teams this season. In the future, keep an eye on soft-hitting opponents for Gibbons to work in a sixth starter against.
If Hutchison can do his part, he should continue to be that next man up. If not, triple-A arms such as Scott Diamond and Wade LeBlanc will enter the picture. As could Roberto Hernandez, who is back with the club on a minor league deal.