DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays have yet to make an official announcement, but it appears that right-hander Drew Hutchison is all but guaranteed a spot in their starting rotation.
Hutchison entered Spring Training competing for a job against Esmil Rogers, Todd Redmond and Marcus Stroman. While the others have struggled to varying degrees, Hutchison has excelled.
The 23-year-old has allowed just three runs on seven hits while striking out 16 over 9 2/3 innings. For a pitching staff that walked far too many batters last year, it's been Hutchison's control that has stood out the most.
"He's got great command. I mean, that's the key to pitching," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He throws a lot harder, the ball jumps on you more than I ever thought it did, and he does it easy. It's basically effortless.
"He's great at hitting both sides of the plate with some good offspeed stuff. I compared him earlier in the spring to Shaun Marcum. You know, they're very similar type pitchers. He's got a little better arm than Shaun had, but they're very similar. In a way they look alike, great athletes, got a great feel for pitching."
When Hutchison officially arrived at camp last month he had something to prove. The native of Tampa didn't pitch for the big league club in 2013 because of Tommy John surgery but was expected to be at full strength this spring. So far he hasn't disappointed with his fastball consistently hitting 92-94 miles per hour and occasionally even going slightly above that.
It's possible the radar gun at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium is a little higher than normal, but even still, Hutchison's secondary pitches have looked impressive and he hasn't experienced much difficulty at all this spring. Things really couldn't have gone much better to date.
"My approach has been what it always has been, and no, I'm not surprised," Hutchison said of his results. "I prepared myself coming into camp to have a good year. I'll just continue to build off each start and continue to get better."
Blue Jays might start year with eight-man bullpen
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- With just over two weeks remaining until Opening Day, the Blue Jays are still floating the idea of starting the year with an eight-man bullpen.
Toronto has several pitchers who are out of options on their contracts and cannot be sent to the Minor Leagues without passing through waivers. That will complicate the club's decision-making process at the end of camp, as the Blue Jays must weigh the pros and cons of carrying an extra reliever or adding to their bench.
"We'll know at the end of Spring Training what we're going to do, but it could go either way, eight or seven, depending on how things stack up and whether we want to risk losing somebody," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Bottom line, what makes the team stronger. That will probably go down to the end."
Casey Janssen, Sergio Santos, Brett Cecil, Steve Delabar and Aaron Loup are all but officially guaranteed a spot in the bullpen. The remaining pitchers will be chosen from a group that includes Dustin McGowan, Jeremy Jeffress, Todd Redmond and Esmil Rogers.
Redmond and Rogers also are being considered for the final spot in the starting rotation, but either way, the Blue Jays will have to get creative if they want to hang onto everybody. An eight-man bullpen is one possibility, but it's also something that would leave the club with only Maicer Izturis, Moises Sierra and either Erik Kratz or Josh Thole off the bench.
"We're not going to take somebody just to keep them," Gibbons said. "We know a lot about the guys that were with us last year, so you can't put on everything on how they perform down here. That's more riding, if they're going to be that fifth guy or not.
"We have a pretty good idea, but we're going to try and put the bullpen together as strong as we can. Ideally you just want seven because you want to strengthen that bench, but it could end up being eight. That wouldn't be ideal, but it could be the way that ends up."