MacArthur: Young Jays eager to be part of late-season solution

Scott MacArthur
8/20/2014 7:08:14 PM
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MILWAUKEE – As radio talk shows, beat reporters and analysts do daily disseminations on the state of the Blue Jays, breaking down the decline of the starting rotation, discussing the lack of power offence and opining on whether veteran players should have voiced displeasure after a quiet trade deadline, three of the ballclub's young pitchers go to work each day looking to be part of the solution.

They're not in a position to comment on the problems, they haven't earned their stripes, but Marcus Stroman, Drew Hutchison and Aaron Sanchez are living the ups and downs – mostly downs – of the pennant race with the rest of their more seasoned mates.

"It sucks the way it's been so far, just kind of how it turned out, just how we've kind of been stumbling lately," said Stroman. "The whole group's pretty confident. You couldn't tell we were in a losing streak just by the attitude of the group. Just looking forward to hopefully turning it around and giving it a real push this year."
Stroman's done his part, pitching to a 3.12 ERA over 14 starts. While he's struggled in two of his last three outings, there have been many more when he's been dominant.

As questions abound about the state of the clubhouse with the season in an apparent free fall, Stroman said the same veteran players he's come to rely on for advice (including Mark Buehrle and Jose Bautista) continue to have a positive effect on his young career.

"Regardless of how the team's doing we still have the veteran presence on the team, you still have everyone who is more than willing to help you out and show you the ropes and do everything in their power to educate you further on being a professional and also on your game and pitching," said Stroman. "Every single day has been a learning experience for me regardless."

Hutchison is working his first full season in the big leagues, having gone down to Tommy John Surgery in June, 2012 and spending last season in rehabilitation. He's been inconsistent, struggling to a 5.79 ERA over his last 15 starts since entering his May 26 outing against Tampa Bay with a 3.45 ERA. There are periodic glimpses of the pitcher the Jays expect Hutchison to become and it's impossible to know how much of his struggles are related to inexperience and how much are simply bumps in the road common to pitchers coming off elbow ligament replacement.

The 23-year-old carries himself beyond his years, concerned that if the 2014 Jays' season continues its current trend it will be one looked back upon with regret.

"You don't know how many opportunities you're going to get to be this close or to have the opportunity that we have," said Hutchison. "Struggling like we have, it's tough but you just have to stick to your process and stay to what you've done that's made you successful and believe that you're going to push through it and get better."

Aaron Sanchez, who at 22 years old is the youngest of the group, is getting his feet wet as a reliever. He's proven to be a reliable, late-inning, right-handed arm for manager John Gibbons.

Like Hutchison, he's not interested in talking about whether a young player can gain from losing, at least not while the team has a mathematical chance at the postseason.

"Coming up as a 22-year-old in a pennant race, trying to win the division, trying to win the wild card, I think you can take a lot from that down the road, especially if you go through this kind of situation again later on in my career," said Sanchez.

"Yeah, definitely, but at the same time you're not just hear to soak it up. You're here to win," said Hutchison. "Yes, in certain ways but in other ways it's not happy to be here, happy to have the opportunity mindset because we're here to win. We're here to get the job done."

The business of preparing for each start, in Stroman's and Hutchison's cases, doesn't change. Sanchez has developed a routine he's comfortable with out of the bullpen. Expect Sanchez to join the starting rotation next season.

"Being a creature of habit you get used to your process and what you do that makes you prepared and feel ready to go," said Hutchison. "You just stick to that and try to block everything else out. When things are going well you do the same thing also."

The Jays head home off a 9-5 win on Wednesday in Milwaukee, a victory to conclude a 2-6 road trip.

Up next is a nine-game homestand against three divisional opponents. It begins on Friday night against the Tampa Bay Rays. Stroman will make the start.

"I'm ready. I'm ready," he said.

Stroman still believes that 2014 can be salvaged.

"If any team's capable of putting together a run, it's us," said Stroman. "The guys that we have on this team are unbelievable. Unbelievable talent as well as personality-wise and if we get hot we'll definitely get hot and open up some eyes so 100-percent faith and confidence in this team to get the job done."

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