Hutchison stretches out in strong Minors start

Hutchison stretches out in strong Minors start

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Drew Hutchison moved another step closer to opening the season in the Blue Jays' starting rotation by tossing seven scoreless innings during a Minor League game on Saturday morning.

Hutchison is technically still competing for a spot in the rotation, but there's very little doubt he'll be on the roster come Opening Day. He has been one of the best Toronto pitchers this spring and has received rave reviews from his coaching staff and front office.

The main goal of Saturday's outing was to increase his pitch limit to 80. He came within one of that benchmark while allowing just one hit and one walk with six strikeouts.

"I felt good all of the way through," Hutchison said. "I settled in about the third inning and had a nice rhythm from then on.

"I feel like I've pitched well. I came into camp ready to pitch well and I've done that. Just continue to perform."

Hutchison entered Spring Training with a lot of question marks surrounding his immediate future in the rotation. He underwent Tommy John surgery midway through the 2012 season, and even though he returned to the mound late last year in the Minor Leagues there was some doubt about just how effective Hutchison would be this spring.

The 23-year-old has since effectively answered all of those questions. Hutchison has felt healthy and seems to have picked up right where he left off two years ago. The native of Lakeland, Fla., has been able to command his fastball down in the zone to both sides of the plate while also showing a lot of movement on his secondary pitches.

"I feel good, it's one of those things where I wasn't sore before I got hurt, it was just the one pitch and then the injury," Hutchison said. "It wasn't a deterioration, it just happened. I did what I needed to do to get back, I worked hard to put myself in this position to have a chance, to go out and perform. So, I'm trying to go out and perform and do the best I can, and that's what my focus is."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.