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MacArthur: Hutchison takes first shutout in stride

Scott MacArthur
5/17/2014 11:21:26 PM
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ARLINGTON, Texas – Drew Hutchison doesn't dwell when things go poorly, so it should come as no surprise that he isn't basking in the afterglow of his first career major league complete game and shutout.

If he is, he isn't showing it.

"For the most part it's just go out there and compete," Hutchison told TSN.ca. "That's what I love to do, naturally, is compete. Go against other guys and win."

The 23-year-old is coming into his own, navigating through the ups and downs of what he hopes will be his first full season with the Blue Jays. His performance on Friday night was just his second win of the year but a closer look at the statistics suggests Hutchison has been one of the club's most reliable pitchers.

With the nine scoreless innings, his ERA dropped from 4.37 to 3.64. His Fielding Independent Pitching statistic (FIP), which calculates a more accurate portrait of a pitcher's ERA based on factors only he can control, dropped from 3.14 to 2.96.

"Whatever point you want to make you can twist them and contort them to back you up kind of thing," said Hutchison of statistical analysis. "Good or bad, either way. They are just kind of what they are but if you do all the other things and work hard and compete I feel like everything else falls in line."

But his FIP suggests he deserves more than his two wins and has been better than his ERA, which itself is more than respectable.

Sometimes games, or certain innings, take on a particular feel. A pitcher gets into trouble and before the damage is done, you can sense it unraveling. With Hutchison that isn't the case. There have been nights when he's struggled, including his second-to-last start against the Angels when he walked four and allowed three runs in 4 1/3 innings, but Hutchison's body language always portrays control.

"I take a lot of pride in that," said Hutchison. "Sometimes you're just not going to have it. A big focus for me is what separates guys from being good, mediocre and great. It seems like you can watch a great pitcher and you can see they don't have it but they still go eight innings and sometimes they have better nights when they have their best stuff. That to me is something I want to get to that point where I can do that."

"He's got a good arm but he's a pitcher, too, he's not just out there throwing," said manager John Gibbons. "Guys like that, they're one pitch away from getting out of something. It's the guys who are just rearing back and don't know where it's going all the time, those are the guys who are really vulnerable."

Hutchison can't remember when he first picked up a baseball. He was pitching by the time he was seven years old but, then again, so are a lot of kids who take turns on the mound between playing different positions.

"I just always loved baseball since I was real young," said Hutchison. "Just always just drawn to it."

Hutchison, born in 1990 in Lakeland, Florida, started out as a fan of the Atlanta Braves. Who could blame him? The Braves had great teams in the mid-to-late 1990s and the future hurler was drawn to the work of Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine as he watched games on TBS.

He counts Craig Biggio, Pedro Martinez and Chipper Jones as players he looked up to in his youth.

Hutchison, like most big leaguers, excelled at the game from an early age but he has a distinct memory of when he believed he could carve out a career in baseball.

"I always believed I could but I think it kind of sank in that I actually had a shot probably in high school," said Hutchison. "I saw some guys who were older than me from our high school get drafted to good Division I colleges and things like that so I knew it was a possibility. I would say the summer before my senior year I really knew, hey, you actually have a chance."

Fastball command is the name of Hutchison's game. He can hoof it up there at 94, 95 miles per hour but his career average fastball velocity is 91.7 miles per hour. He has to locate consistently or he'll get hit.

He was at it on Friday night, throwing first pitch strikes to 21 of 30 Rangers' hitters.

"I think there's definitely, some of it's what you're born with, God given," said Hutchison of his ability to paint the corners. "At the same time you don't just walk out there and throw strikes. You can struggle like anybody else on any given day. I've always had a good feel for it. It's just kind of how it's been."

Hutchison's gone at least eight innings in two of his last three starts. On May 6 in Philadelphia, Hutchison had a 5-0 lead headed to the sixth. He coughed it up, capped by a Cody Asche grand slam that followed a two out walk, but because he'd pitched efficiently he was able to go back out for the seventh and eighth. He worked three up, three down innings in both. The Blue Jays would win 6-5 in 10 innings.

"Those are the type of games, you have to do that for your team," said Hutchison. "To suck up the innings and bounce back and show you've moved on. Once things have happened it doesn't do you any good to think about it. You can only continue to grind and try to get through it.

"Games like that, they suck," he continued. "The fact that you went up and you gave up a five-run lead, which is something that should never, ever happen. Especially that late in the game, you should never even let it get to that point but once you do you have to do that."

What about goals, aside from the obvious? A 20-win season?

"See that's another thing, so much of that's out of your control," said Hutchison. "For me, number one, obviously, is just to stay healthy just because of what happened in the past. In my head I know I'm fine. It's not even an issue."

Anything else?

"I have my goals but they're something that's just me," said Hutchison. "I don't really get into it with anybody. People would think I'm crazy."

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