TORONTO – Drew Hutchison wants you to know that he's healthy. He will dispel any notion to the contrary when it's used to try to explain his inconsistency.
“I feel the exact same every time I've taken the mound this year,” said Hutchison. “It's frustrating because I expect myself not to be inconsistent and that's what I get. It's frustrating.”
Hutchison's injury history has been well chronicled. As a 21-year-old, Hutchison was an early season call-up in 2012, less than three years after he was drafted out of Lakeland (Florida) Senior High School. He impressed in 11 starts between April and June, but was lost for the season upon tearing the ulnar ligament in his pitching elbow. He underwent the famous Tommy John reconstruction surgery and returned, pitching in the minor leagues, late last season.
This season, he's already surpassed his innings total of last year. The Blue Jays have already negotiated their rotation to afford Hutchison extra rest on one occasion and it's likely other spots will be cherry-picked through the year.
Hutchison has pitched much better on the road than at home. He has been better on extra rest, five days or more in between starts, than he has been when pitching on the regular four days of down time.
He simplified his Sunday struggles, during which he allowed five earned runs in only three innings of work in the Jays' 5-0 loss to St. Louis. Hutchison pitched on regular rest.
“I made some mistakes and they got hit like they should,” said Hutchison. “I left a change-up up. I hung a slider. Those are pitches they're going to do damage with. Regardless of anything else, if I throw a hanging slider on two days rest or eight days rest, it's going to get drilled.”
At home in five starts, Hutchison is 1-3 with an 8.72 ERA, seven home runs allowed and 21 strikeouts to 13 unintentional walks.
On the road in eight starts, he's 3-1 with a 2.03 ERA, three home runs allowed and 46 strikeouts to 10 walks.
Hutchison's two finest outings of the season occurred away from Rogers Centre. He tossed a three-hit shutout in Texas, outpitching Yu Darvish in a 2-0 win on May 16. Then, on June 3 in Detroit, Hutchison went pitch-for-pitch with Anibal Sanchez. He got a no-decision for his seven scoreless innings, but the Jays got the win when the offence opened up on the Tigers' bullpen.
The start in Texas was on normal rest. The start in Detroit was on seven days of rest.
Yet Hutchison's take on the appearances versus the Tigers is different than the layman observer's.
“I didn't think I was lights out that start, either, until about the fourth or the fifth,” said Hutchison. “I didn't think I had very good tempo and I didn't think I was locked in.”
Hutchison is a command pitcher, at his best when he's working the corners with his fastball and mixing in his slider and his changeup to keep hitters off balance. The modus operandi isn't exclusive to Hutchison, of course, but because he doesn't throw a high-90s fastball, he's less prone to get away with mistakes.
If it's not about fatigue and it isn't about health, could it be about a 23-year-old still learning the ropes?
“I mean, sure, that's fair to say,” said Hutchison. “For me, I don't really look at things that way. I'm more take the ball and I expect to give us a good outing every time I go out there, regardless of my age or regardless of what level I'm at or anything like that.”
Hutchison wants to be reliable and admitted he's angry that hasn't always been the case. There's frustration at the inconsistency.
“That's been the biggest difference between the good starts I've had and the bad starts - my rhythm and my tempo has been good in my good starts and it hasn't been in my bad starts, so I think that's something I'm more focused on than anything else,” said Hutchison.
Colby Rasmus, on the disabled list since May 13 with an injured right hamstring, has made enough progress that his rehab schedule is becoming better defined.
Rasmus continues to perform baseball activities at the Blue Jays' facility in Dunedin, Florida and may get into an extended spring training game early this week.
The Triple-A Buffalo Bisons are scheduled to open up a four-game series in Toledo, Ohio, against the Mudhens on Thursday. Rasmus will join the Bisons there.
It's not yet clear how many games he will play before being activated off the disabled list and rejoining the Blue Jays.