PITTSBURGH – Pirates manager Clint Hurdle talked about the importance of finding a “competitive comfort zone” for Drew Hutchison as he makes his Pirates debut tonight against the Reds at PNC Park.
“We were looking to give him the ball in some shape, form, or fashion while he was here,” said Hurdle, noting that the two innings that Trevor Williams pitched on Wednesday night paved the way for Hutchison to get the start tonight.
Our own Brian Peloza wrote about Hutchison’s adjustment to the Pirates organization shortly after he was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays for Francisco Liriano, Harold Ramirez, and Reese McGuire. Hurdle mentioned that ongoing adjustment process and shared his perspective on some of the reports that Indianapolis coaching staff has shared with their major league counterparts.
“The overall pitch-ability was solid; [it] seemed like one inning was getting complicated,” Hurdle said. “When things would start to move in a wrong direction, for whatever reason, he wasn’t able to stop it.”
Hutchison allowed multiple runs in at least one inning in four of his seven starts with Indianapolis, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio of 1.87 was below expectations for a starting pitcher. He did perform well in his final Triple-A start last Saturday, throwing 6.1 innings with four hits and one walk while striking out five.
Though Hutchison does have a two-seam fastball, he does not fit the typical ground-ball generating profile that the Pirates seem to prefer when acquiring pitchers. Since reaching Double-A, Hutchison has found more outs in the air than on the ground, and his 38.7% career ground ball rate in the major leagues is well below the Pirates’ team average this year (47.4%).
Hutchison throws his four-seam and two-seam fastballs at roughly the same speed (91-93 MPH), and does the same with his slider and changeup (84-86 MPH). His circle changeup moves like a split-fingered fastball, with horizontal and vertical movement very similar to his two-seam fastball.
Whether Hutchison can consistently pitch at an above-average level in the major leagues remains to be seen. He posted a 4.93 ERA (4.23 FIP/4.01 xFIP) in 73 starts with the Blue Jays over parts of five seasons, and a 6.54 FIP in his three major league starts earlier this season.
Against NL teams, Hutchison has allowed a .245/.295/.436 line in eight career starts, with 46 strikeouts and 11 walks. This will be his first career appearance at PNC Park, and also his first appearance against the Cincinnati Reds.
Marte Remains Day-to-Day
According to Clint Hurdle, Starling Marte was not available off the bench for last night’s game, and Hurdle was not yet aware if Marte has been deemed well enough to appear in some capacity during tonight’s game. He last played on Monday night against the Cardinals.
By both versions wins above replacement, Marte has been the Pirates’ most valuable player this season (4.8 bWAR, 3.9 fWAR), and is one of three Pirates—Gregory Polanco and David Freese are the others—to contribute value at the plate, on the bases, and in the field.
Feliz and Schugel Not Yet Ready
Hurdle also confirmed that pitchers Neftali Feliz and A.J. Schugel will not be available out of the bullpen for tonight’s game. Both pitchers played catch yesterday, but Hurdle did not specify a precise timetable for their return.