Blue Jay Drew Hutchison's success traced to Dunedin coach
Rookie starting pitcher credits Mike Redmond for accelerating rise to major leagues
Where did Drew Hutchison come from?
Technically, the answer to that would be Lakeland, Fla., where the Toronto Blue Jays rookie starting pitcher was born.
But the young right-hander has often been recognized as the player who started last season with the Class-A Lansing Lugnuts and made his way through four levels of the Toronto Blue Jays farm system to land in the majors this year.
Hutchison, 21, came from a successful Lugnuts team, which appeared in the Midwest League championship last September without him. He worked his way past the Dunedin Blue Jays and landed with the AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats by the end of the season, winning an Eastern League championship instead.
At 2012 spring training, there came a seemingly disappointing moment when Hutchison’s scheduled start against the Detroit Tigers in his hometown of Lakeland was skipped over to accommodate the scheduling needs of a more likely rotation candidate.
At the time it appeared as though the hurler may have missed his chance to play in front of his friends and family as a part of the big-league roster.
Yet, here he is in Toronto three months later with 10 major league starts under his belt and all the opportunity in the world for his family to watch him take the field with the big club.
"It’s been really special for me, being my first year," Hutchison said. "It’s been a lot of fun so far but we’ve got a long way to go. We’ve got 100 games left and I’m just real excited to continue playing."
Rewind the tape to a year ago.
Last June 14, Hutchison earned his fifth win of the season for Lansing. He threw six shutout innings of four-hit ball against the South Bend Silver Hawks, striking out seven. Though the year didn’t start as Hutchison might have hoped, this was the time when things really started to go his way.
Who helped Hutchison get on track?
Mike Redmond is currently in his second year as a minor league manager in the Blue Jays system. After leading Lansing to the Midwest League championship last season, Redmond has helped the Dunedin Blue Jays already clinched a spot in the post-season this year.
The second-year skipper owns a managerial record of 115-86 entering play on Thursday, with two playoff teams in two years. He has also seen his first player make it to the major leagues and stick, a rarity for a manager from Low-A ball, just three months into his High-A season.
"He was my first," Redmond said of Hutchison. "I’ve texted him a couple times but I talked to him in spring training. It was great because last year in Lansing he struggled his first three, four, five starts and then he caught fire and just took off. I knew he would get a chance to pitch in the big leagues this year and that was fun. It was great to see him up there doing well and pitching."
The young Blue Jays starter has a 5-3 record so far this season to go with a 4.66 earned-run average. In 58 innings, he’s allowed 19 walks and struck out 48 batters. He was grateful to have Redmond as his manager in Lansing last season, helping him make the changes needed to succeed and get to where he is now.
"I started off kind of slow last year," Hutchison said. "He called me in the office and he said, ‘Alright, let’s start over. Let’s just go out there and you be yourself,’ and things started to click. Everything went right and now I’m here.
"I always believed in my abilities and I knew I could [play at the major league level] but I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen this year. It was kind of far off at the time but it’s real exciting. Playing for him last year was a lot of fun."
For Redmond, watching Hutchison this year is a lot of fun.
"I was excited for him," the Dunedin Blue Jays manager said. "I don’t know that I get nervous ever like I did as a player but as a manager or as a coach, you just want guys to do well. You want guys to go up there and be successful because I know how hard they worked and the struggles that went into them getting to the big leagues. So when they get there, you just want them to go out there and be great so that they stay there forever and have long careers. That’s the satisfying part."
Redmond hopes to exchange many more text messages with former players of his that might soon make it to the big leagues. Until then, his focus is on his one and only.
"I didn’t even realize that [I was his first big leaguer]," Hutchison said. "That is pretty cool. He was awesome to play for last year in Lansing. He’s going to be a great manager."