Drew Hutchison was the haul for Pittsburgh in the deadline money dump for Francisco Liriano and prospects Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez. Pirates general manager Neal Huntington believes the organization can turn the right-hander into a key piece of Pittsburgh's rotation, but the initial results weren't particularly positive. Hutchison allowed seven earned runs in 11.1 innings for the Bucs in September after compiling a 4.50 ERA in 36 innings for Triple-A Indianapolis. At one time he was a promising prospect with Toronto, when he went 14-5 with a 2.53 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 149.1 minor league innings in 2011. Injuries have curtailed his progress since then and it remains to be seen whether the 26-year-old can rekindle his magic. He'll get every chance to show his stuff in spring training, given the Pirates' lack of established starting pitching behind Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon and Ivan Nova.
Hutchison was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis on Wednesday, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. The race for the No. 5 starter role in Pittsburgh is down to Tyler Glasnow and Trevor Williams with Hutchison out of the picture for the time being. Hutchison gave up just six hits in his first three spring appearances (nine innings), but he was then rocked for 21 runs on 27 hits in his subsequent three starts. The 26-year-old right-hander owns a 4.93 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 8.3 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 over 417.2 career innings at the major-league level.
Hutchison surrendered six earned runs on 10 hits and two walks in 4.2 innings Thursday. He struck out two batters. After a promising spring start, Hutchison has been lit up for 12 earned runs in eight innings over his last two appearances. His recent struggles have only added to the uncertainty around the identity the team's No. 5 starter, as Hutchison, Tyler Glasnow, Steven Brault and Trevor Williams are all in the mix. Rob Biertempfel of TribLive.com also notes that it's also possible the Pirates could use their fifth starter sparingly over the first month of the season, with an off day scheduled roughly once a week through April, if no candidate has seized the job by the end of camp.
Hutchison allowed six earned runs in 3.1 innings Friday. He gave up seven hits and two walks while striking out four. The frontrunner for the final rotation spot, Hutchison came up with his worst performance of the spring. Still, he remains the probable favorite if he can bounce back next time out. Steven Brault (1.00 ERA in nine innings) is his main competition, and while Brault would give Pittsburgh its only left-handed starter, the team is paying Hutchison $2.3 million. Tyler Glasnow has likely pitched himself out of the running with a lackluster spring.
Hutchison allowed one run in four innings Friday against Tampa Bay. He struck out five while giving up three hits and two walks. "I saw Drew hit spots," manager Clint Hurdle told DK Pittsburgh Sports. "That's the guy that we've seen have some success. He's a strike-thrower and he moves the ball around the zone." Hutchison likely has become the frontrunner for the team's No. 5 spot in the rotation over Tyler Glasnow, Steven Brault and Trevor Williams. He's whiffed nine batters in nine spring innings, permitting two earned runs on six hits and three walks. Hutchison isn't overpowering but spots his pitches. "It's 88, 91, 92 (mph), tops," Hurdle said. "But he knows how to pitch. He had some angles to his pitches and some finish to his slider."
Hutchison struck out four batters in three scoreless innings Friday. He allowed just one hit and one walk. He threw well, but it's important to keep in mind he faced a Baltimore lineup composed of backups. Nevertheless, the three clean innings are a welcomed sight for Pirates' management, which has heavily promoted him since last summer. Hutchison may have created some distance between himself and Tyler Glasnow, who struggled Friday, in the race for the fifth starter's spot.
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