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Hutchison named AFL Pitcher of the Week

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Once you have had a taste of the Major Leagues, you don't want to be anywhere else. But sometimes fate has a way of throwing down a few roadblocks.

Take the case of Drew Hutchison, a right-handed pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays. The club's 15th-round Draft pick in 2009 began the '12 season with Double-A New Hampshire, then was called up to the big league club.

Hutchison had a promising beginning, going 5-3 in 11 starts, before injury struck. He suffered a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow, but he thought at first that he could avoid Tommy John surgery. Rest for four to six weeks originally was prescribed, followed by the resumption of throwing.

But it was clear that it was not sufficient, and Hutchison had the surgery in August 2012. As devastating as that can be, he tried to remain calm and thought about all of the hard work it would require for him to get back on the mound.

"I don't want to go through that again," the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Hutchison said. "You don't want anybody to go through it. But it is what it is, and you have to do whatever you need to do to get back."

After his rehabilitation, Hutchison's first start came on July 9 this season at Class A Advanced Dunedin in his native state of Florida. Then it was back to New Hampshire and on to Triple-A Buffalo. He pitched in 10 games combined at the three levels, with nine starts. Hutchison had a 0-4 record.

The road led to Arizona, where the Blue Jays asked Hutchison to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, which features the best young prospects in the game. That would provide a significant test. He joined the staff of the Salt River Rafters and has shown he is well on the way to full recovery.

The 23-year-old was named the AFL's Pitcher of the Week for Week 4. Hutchison was 1-0 in his one start, pitching five innings (tied for first in the league) and giving up two hits, no runs with one walk and three strikeouts. Through Week 4, he led starters with a 0.57 ERA and ranked seventh overall in ERA.

Overall, Hutchison is 1-0 with 14 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings. He also led the league in WHIP (0.57). Hutchison ranked second in lowest walks per nine innings and was third in opponent batting average (.127).

Hutchison was joined on the honor roll by Salt River teammate Andy Burns, an infielder who was selected Player of the Week.

"Everything feels good," said Hutchsion, who is scheduled to make his next start on Wednesday against the Scottsdale Scorpions. "I am fortunate to get back on the mound, get into a routine and make progress.

"I knew I needed to get more innings, more mound time to be where I need to be next spring. I have trusted in the medical staff's rehab protocol to help me get there."

Burns has no doubt Hutchison will return to the Blue Jays' rotation soon.

"I played with him a little in Double-A, and he used to tell us stories about the big leagues and what it takes to get there," Burns said. "He's been there and knows what it's all about. I have watched him and his stuff is definitely there."

Hutchison has been encouraged by his pitches.

"It's a constant thing," he said. "My fastball command has been good, and everything else works off of that.

"I need to continue to be aggressive, finish off the hitters, don't let them back in the count. If I continue to do all of this, then I have confidence I will be back to where I was before the injury."

Toronto Blue Jays