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MacArthur: Trends developing in Hutchison's season

Scott MacArthur
6/8/2014 5:48:39 PM
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TORONTO - Drew Hutchison was roughed up by the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday afternoon; a brief, poor outing that served to highlight two trends that have developed this season.

The first: Hutchison is dominant pitching on the road and has been anything but throwing at Rogers Centre.

After Sunday's outing in which he tossed only three innings, allowing five earned runs on six hits (two home runs) and one walk in a 5-0 Toronto loss which dropped his personal win-loss record to 4-4, the splits look like this.

Hutchison at home: 5 Games Started, 1-3, 8.72 ERA, 7 HR allowed and a 1.892 walks and hits per innings pitched (WHIP).

Hutchison on the road: 8 Games Started, 3-1, 2.03 ERA, 3 HR allowed and a 0.973 WHIP.

Both Hutchison and his manager appear to be at a loss to explain the discrepancy.

"Obviously I feel the same when I take the mound every time, at home and on the road," said Hutchison. "I just haven't executed well here and I haven't put together good games."

"Some guys are like that, it's hard to put a finger on it," said manager John Gibbons. "But you can't pitch him on the road every time … He wasn't very good today. They hit him around a little bit. But he's been pretty good for us."

Hutchison is coming off of Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, which was performed in July, 2012. He rehabbed for a full year and pitched briefly at Triple-A late last season and then in the Arizona Fall League. His 75 innings this year surpass, by far, his allotment from the abbreviated 2013 campaign.

The Blue Jays are taking care of the 23-year-old. Prior to his last start, a scoreless, seven-inning gem last Tuesday in Detroit, Gibbons gave him a full week's rest after he struggled in a home start against the Tampa Bay Rays.

That leads to the second trend. Hutchison pitches much better when he's had extra rest, five or more days in between starts, than when he pitches on the usual four days of rest to which starters are accustomed.

Here are the numbers:

Hutchison on four days rest: 6 Games Started, 3-3, 5.94 ERA, 14 walks, 21 strikeouts, 7 home runs allowed.

Hutchison on five or more days rest: 7 Games Started, 1-1, 2.62 ERA, 5 walks, 34 strikeouts, 3 home runs allowed.

Expect Gibbons to cherry pick spots to give Hutchison extra rest over the course of the season but it's difficult to do at the moment due to a lack of off days. Toronto has two more before the All-Star Break, one on Monday, June 16 and another on Monday, June 30.

The task becomes easier in August when there are five off days in the month and becomes difficult again in September, when there is only one. By that point, though, the Jays hope to be counting on Hutchison in important games down the stretch.

Hutchison, arguably, has been the Blue Jays' second-best starter to Mark Buehrle and it's likely the club will allow the 23-year-old to work through the ups and downs of a long season. Few are the young pitchers who thrive every time they take the ball.

With a long road trip coming up, Hutchison's next two starts are scheduled to be in Baltimore on Friday night and against the Yankees, in New York, on the following Thursday.

Don't expect Gibbons to take the ball out of Hutchison's hands on either occasion.

LIND'S SPLITS

Adam Lind is strictly a platoon player these days. Hitting coach Kevin Seitzer is bound and determined to change that.

"I'm working my butt off to change that because I think he can be just as effective, or almost as effective, off lefties as what he is off righties," said Seitzer. "What happens with lefties and it's guys that I've worked with in past years, they get pounded in by hard stuff and they get to chase stuff and the breaking stuff and secondary pitches in any count."

The narrative is that Lind, a left-handed hitter, cannot hit left-handed pitching consistently. The talking point is backed up by his career statistics and the sample size, over nine seasons, is large enough.

Lind, versus right-handers: 2,263 plate appearances, .290/.347/.512, 122 home runs, 17 per cent strikeout rate.

Lind, versus left-handers: 875 plate appearances, .216/.261/.337, 21 home runs, 25.8 per cent strikeout rate.

Manager John Gibbons has worked accordingly this season, relegating Lind to starts against right-handers. Entering Sunday's play, Lind had 20 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers for the entire season.

"We have a team that's versatile and can do a bunch of different things," said Lind. "I face lefties at the end of the game. I just don't start when they start the game. I get my share of at-bats against those guys."

Lind is quick to point out that he often gets the more difficult left-handed challenges.

"I don't get the normal starters but I'll take the lefty specialists."

Lind faced an old nemesis in Friday night's win over the Cardinals. He drew a full count walk off left-hander Randy Choate, a guy who Lind saw frequently when Choate was with division rival Tampa Bay. He fouled off some tough pitches in that plate appearance.

"I played against some lefties at the beginning of the year and had some good at-bats, hit the ball hard, just didn't get a hit," said Lind. "When you're in June and you look back at May you don't remember who you faced and you don't remember what really happened. It's just a statistic now. I get it, that's just how it goes and that's how people are going to look at it over the course of a season."

Seitzer, as much a psychological coach as a mechanical instructor, wants Lind to look for pitches out over the plate. He believes positive results will follow.

"That's all it boils down to is breaking that bad wound that he's put in his brain that he's got to get to pitches inside because that's where they're going to come," said Seitzer.

DICKEY ON STROMAN

Marcus Stroman's curveball has been on full display during his first two big league starts.

He's baffled Royals' and Cardinals' hitters with the pitch and he's impressed his veteran teammates.

"It's his ability to spin the baseball that separates him from other guys," said Dickey. "He can really spin a ball and that takes a lot of arm speed, a lot of God-given, innate natural ability to be able to do that. You can't learn that."

Stroman is scheduled to start Wednesday afternoon's series finale against the Twins. Teams are developing a book on the 23-year-old, information which will only increase each time he takes the mound. Hitters will make adjustments. It'll be up to Stroman to do the same.

"That's one of the things that makes you successful and able to endure at this level," said Dickey. "Do you have an aptitude where you have the ability to make adjustments quickly? I don't see anything that would lead me to believe he doesn't have that. He's got a lot of moxie, too. He seems pretty confident out there, which is great."

In the spring, general manager Alex Anthopoulos joked that Stroman was the first pitcher he'd ever seen blow a bubble in the middle of his windup.

It's a common occurrence.

"We were on the bench thinking, like, what is Matt Holliday thinking when he's in the middle of his leg kick and a big bubble's in his mouth," joked Dickey. "He's probably just thinking, 'Throw the ball.' I mean, that's just what you think but everybody has their own little thing."

BLUE JAYS SIGN TWO PICKS

The Blue Jays signed their fourth and eighth round draft picks from last week's amateur draft.

Right-handed hitting catcher Matt Morgan, an 18-year-old out of Thorsby High School in Alabama, put pen to paper on a contract. He was taken 114th overall.

Right-hander Justin Shafer, a 21-year-old who's completed his junior year with the University of Florida Gators, is on board. He was taken 234th overall.

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