The Phillies announced Thursday that the club has signed former Blue Jay and Pirate starting pitcher Drew Hutchison to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training. The ink went to paper just hours after the team’s pitchers and catchers opened up the spring session with a workout and a bullpen session, as new skipper Gabe Kapler peered through the holes in the fencing to get his first glance at the men taking the mound in 2018.
Hutchison was drafted in the 15th round of the 2009 amateur draft by the Toronto Blue Jays out of Lakeland High School in Florida. He was taken ten picks after the Detroit Tigers selected future number one overall pick Mark Appel, who chose to attend Stanford University instead of signing.
Hutchison began his professional career in 2010, ascending from short season Single A to Single A Lansing before the season ended. In 15 starts, Hutchison posted a 2.49 ERA and two wins in just shy of 70 innings pitched. The following season, Hutchison made greater strides, propelling himself from Lansing to the AA New Hampshire Fishercats, with a stop in Advanced A Dunedin along the way. The 20-year-old appeared in 28 games, starting 27 of them, posting a 2.53 ERA in 149.1 innings pitched. Over three leagues, Hutchison won 14 games and lost just five, striking out 171 in the process.
For his efforts, Hutchison received his first Spring Training invite in 2012. He failed to make the team out of camp, and was assigned to New Hampshire to begin the season. On April 21, he made his Major League debut, giving up five earned runs over 5.1 innings pitched, beating the Kansas City Royals. He surrendered eight hits, struck out four and walked three in the win. Hutchison would make 11 starts that year for the Blue Jays, going 5-3 with a 4.76 ERA. His strikeout totals dropped and his WHIP rose by nearly half a point in his first big league season. Hutchison’s 2012 was cut short due to a sprained right elbow, which would land him on the 15-day disabled list on June 16. The Blue Jays moved the righty to the 60-day DL on June 26, effectively ending his season.
Hutchison battled through injuries again in 2013, appearing in just 10 games across three minor leagues. When active, he struggled to find the success he had in 2011, posting a 4.70 ERA in AA and a 6.63 ERA in AAA Buffalo.
The 23-year-old found some former success in 2014, starting and completing a full season with the Blue Jays. He started 32 Major League games, going 11-13 with a 4.48 ERA over 184.2 innings, the most he has thrown in a professional season. His strikeout numbers increased, as he punched out 184 hitters that season, good for eighth in the American League. His WHIP was certainly manageable, as well, as Hutchison allowed opposing batters to hit just .245 off him.
Hutchison was given the Opening Day nod in 2015, but the season was not nearly as kind to Hutchison, who struggled to go deep into games. He started 30 games, and accrued just 150.1 innings, averaging almost exactly five innings per start. He managed to win 13 games, losing just five, but was helped out by a powerful Toronto offense that scored a league best 891 runs. At the end of the season, Hutchison was sent down to AAA and was kept off the playoff roster.
The now-25-year-old began the 2016 season in AAA, but bounced back and forth between the Buffalo affiliate and the big league club. At the trade deadline that season, Hutchison was shipped to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Francisco Liriano and two minor leaguers. Between the two clubs, Hutchison appeared in nine Major League games in 2016, starting three of them. He posted a 1-0 record but a 5.25 ERA. He allowed 28 hits over the span of 24 innings pitched.
Hutchison spent the entirety of 2017 with the Indianapolis Indians, the Pirates’ AAA affiliate. He appeared in 28 games, starting 26 of them. Over 159.1 healthy innings, Hutchison went 9-9 with a 3.56 ERA. While his strikeouts were down, and walk numbers up, Hutchison battled out of jams on a consistent basis. His average rate of homeruns allowed per nine dropped under one for the first time since 2013.
While this certainly isn’t the earth shattering signing that many Phillies fans were hoping for, it does allow for another rotation arm when the team splits throughout the spring. It also allows the Phillies to have a veteran arm in Lehigh Valley should Hutchison not make the big league club out of camp. Consider Hutchison a replacement for Mark Appel.
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