NEW YORK – Drew Hutchison is in a midseason slump. It hasn't been pretty lately. He knows it.
There's something he'd like to get out of the way. Something he'd like us to know, the answer to a question he'd like to no longer be asked.
He's not tired. Also, he's healthy.
"I wouldn't be on the mound if I wasn't," said Hutchison. "If I'm on the mound then I'm good to go. I'd never put the team in that situation or myself in that situation after what I've been through, given what I had to go through to get back to where I am now. I certainly wouldn't jeopardize that."
When Hutchison first toed the rubber for his July 6 start in Oakland, three outings ago, he was sporting a 3.81 ERA. His ERA for the season now sits at 4.54.
There had been some brilliant starts, like his masterful two-hit shutout of the Rangers on May 16 in Arlington and two seven-scoreless efforts (June 3 in Detroit and June 13 in Baltimore).
He'd also had his struggles but they wouldn't linger. After those outings he'd hear musings about his home-road splits (7.71 ERA in eight home starts; 2.97 ERA in 12 road starts) and he'd be asked, including by TSN.ca, whether the inconsistency was a byproduct of a pitcher throwing a large quantity of innings for the first time since undergoing the Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery.
Hutchison is a mature kid. He's poised. When you talk to him, it's easy to forget he's only 23 years old.
His pitching coach offers a reminder when asked to explain why Hutchison can look dominating in one appearance and anything but in the next. He may be mature but he is a kid.
"I just think it still comes down to experience at this level. When you do struggle, how to make those adjustments; sometimes a veteran guy, in a game like the last one, will find a way to get through that," said Pete Walker. "He's still at a point where he gets frustrated. He's emotional and he wants to have success and he wants to be out there and he wants everyone to want him out there, which we do.
"So I think he puts added pressure on himself right now."
In Hutchison's last three starts, all losses, he's allowed 15 earned runs in 13 2/3 innings (9.87 ERA). He's given up 23 hits and walked seven in that span. He's coming off the shortest start of his career not interrupted by injury, 2 2/3 innings of work on Monday in a 14-1 loss to Boston.
Known as a command guy, that element has eluded Hutchison of late. He explained by first drawing a distinction.
"There's a big difference between command and control. Control is not walking guys; command is commanding the baseball where you want it to be," said Hutchison. "That could be throwing the slider a little bit off the plate, throwing a slider on the plate, throwing it where you want to, commanding the baseball. You can command the baseball and walks guys. I think that's a lot different than control. Control's just throwing it in the box and not walking guys.
"To command the baseball to all four quadrants, like I like to do with all my pitches, that's something that wasn't there to where I'm capable of having it in my last start."
"We still have to continue to refine his slider," said Walker. "His slider at times is probably more of an issue than his fastball, being able to get that in the zone so he doesn't have to be as fine with his heater. The same with his changeup so I think his secondary stuff is still a little bit of a work in progress. I think when the fastball location isn't quite there he has to be able to use his secondary stuff as well to get through those kinds of outings."
Hutchison takes the ball on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, looking to help snap his team's 17-game losing streak in the Bronx. More importantly, a win would pull the Blue Jays back even with New York for second place in the American League East.
Another thing he wants you to know: regardless of his relative inexperience and whatever the outcome, he won't be overwhelmed. If he's struggling early, Hutchison knows his fortunes could change in the blink of an eye.
"There are times when you know, hey, I need to make a pitch right here," said Hutchison. "Sometimes you can be not making pitches and sometimes you make one pitch and you can get out of it with nothing and then find your rhythm and go seven innings. That's happened before."
Mark Buehrle got the series-opening start in New York on Friday night. On Friday morning, he was the veteran doing good by some of his youngest teammates.
Buehrle took Aaron Sanchez, Rob Rasmussen, Todd Redmond, Ryan Goins and Marcus Stroman suit shopping.
"I got a nice little double-breasted, it's like a silver, it's not even a gray, it's more like a chrome suit," said Stroman, struggling to describe the colour. "It's pretty fresh."
Buehrle was discreet. He handed his mates notes, telling them to meet him in the hotel lobby at 10 o'clock on Friday morning. He'd dropped hints in advance the gathering would be for a suit fitting.
"Buehrle's the man," said Stroman. "He's got a lot to offer and he's the most down to earth guy for having all the success he's had so it's awesome being around him."
The practice is common. Two years ago, Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow took Drew Hutchison for a suit fitting.
A little more than three years after the Blue Jays made him the 11th overall pick of the 2010 draft, Alex Anthopoulos' first as general manager, Deck McGuire is out of the organization.
The 25-year-old was traded to Oakland on Friday in exchange for cash considerations.
McGuire was designated for assignment on July 18 to make room on the 40-man roster for Brad Mills, who'd been claimed off waivers from Oakland and who has since been taken off the 40-man roster and demoted to Triple-A Buffalo.