Orioles at Pirates, 1:05 p.m.
LECOM Park, Bradenton, Fla.
Orioles starter: RHP Gabriel Ynoa
Pirates starter: LHP Steven Brault
Pirates at Rays, 1:05 p.m.
Charlotte Spots Park, Port Charlotte, Fla.
Pirates starter: RHP Josh Lindblom
Rays starter: RHP David Carpenter
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Updated 6 minutes ago
BRADENTON, Fla. — The “new guy” feeling has faded for Drew Hutchison. He can put names and faces together in the clubhouse. He knows his way around the spring training complex.
What remains unsettled is how — or if — he will fit in the Pirates' starting rotation this season. That question will be answered in part by how well he adapts to a revamped delivery over the next five weeks in camp.
“The situations around you may change, but you have to stay focused and do the things you need to do to be successful,” Hutchison said. “My expectations have not really changed.”
The Pirates last August gave up their opening day starter (Francisco Liriano), a former first-round pick (Reese McGuire) and one of their top outfielder prospects (Harold Ramirez) to get Hutchison from the Toronto Blue Jays.
Two years ago, Hutchison, then 24, was the youngest opening day starter in Blue Jays history and went 13-5 with a 5.57 ERA. He couldn't hold onto a big league job, however, and spent most of last season in Triple-A.
“Coming here has been a fresh start, which I think I needed,” Hutchison said. “It's been good so far. I feel good about where I'm at. I'm looking forward to getting into games in spring training and going from there.”
The cost to acquire Hutchison was hefty, but that is mostly because the Pirates were eager to dump Liriano's $13 million salary for 2017. Still, it created high expectations for Hutchison, who started only three games in the majors last year.
After the trade, Hutchison was sent to Triple-A Indianapolis. The Pirates then gave him a test drive as a September call-up.
Over his six outings (one start), the results were not exactly encouraging. Hutchison posted a 5.56 ERA and a 1.59 WHIP.
It's an easy drive from Hutchison's home in Tampa to Pirate City, so he made several trips there last winter to work out. During one visit, senior pitching coordinator Scott Mitchell pulled Hutchison aside to watch game video.
Mitchell and pitching coach Ray Searage noticed Hutchison had a tendency to kick out his right foot and swing it around in his delivery instead of going straight from the rubber to his landing spot. That caused Hutchison to rotate his upper body.
“When he did that, his elbow dropped, and he was trying to spot the ball up,” Searage said.
Hutchison immediately went to work on a more direct stride, and he's carried that through into spring training. This delivery is actually a version of what he used earlier in his career.
“It's about getting me back to where I feel comfortable and where I was at when I was being successful,” Hutchison said.
“We're not out of the woods yet, but we're in a really good spot and we're building,” Searage said. “He feels comfortable. It puts his arm in the best position to maximize his (velocity). With that adjustment to his delivery, he's able to get the fastball down and away (instead of) over the middle of the plate.”
Chad Kuhl has “the inside track” for the No. 4 spot in the rotation, according to general manager Neal Huntington. The small crowd vying for the No. 5 job consists of Hutchison, Tyler Glasnow, Steven Brault and Trevor Williams.
“We'll see how that plays out,” Huntington said. “A couple of guys are probably ahead of others — Hutchison, in terms of the experience he has; Glasnow, in terms of the ceiling he has.”
Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
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