Jays' Hutchison on the right track

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:35 PM ET

TORONTO - Each draft day names are linked forever.

The Seattle Mariners passed on local right-hander Tim Lincecum to select right-hander Brandon Morrow in 2006.

The Blue Jays decided Troy Tulowitzki was the best player available but chose Ricky Romero in 2005 since they thought they had Russ Adams as future shortstop.

And James Paxton, the Jays pick who got away, connects with right-hander Drew Hutchison.

Paxton was the Jays second pick, 37th overall, in 2009.

When the Jays could not agree on a deal with Paxton’s agent, Scott Boras, Paxton returned to the University of Kentucky. Now a fast riser in the Seattle Mariners system, Paxton may be a September call-up.

The Jays didn’t put Paxton’s allotted bonus money into their pockets or open up an RRSP.

They went over slot to sign Hutchison, a 15th-rounder, for $400,000, who in the off season doubles as the best Christmas-tree salesman in Lakeland, Fla.

Hutchison, 21, is on his own fast track, starting 2011 at class-A Lansing, then being promoted to class-A Dunedin and finishing at double-A New Hampshire. He went a combined 14-5 with a 2.43 ERA in 27 starts.

He’s one of seven Jays minor leaguers in town until Tuesday for a mini camp to enable them to learn about expectations of a major-league life.

The others are outfielders Anthony Gose, 21 and Moises Sierra, 23, former No. 1 pick right-hander Chad Jenkins, 24, first baseman Mike McDade, 22, reliever Evan Crawford, 25, and infielder Jon Diaz, 26.

McDade, the best defensive first baseman in the organization, explained the mini camp includes covering the likes of strength training, life after baseball and dealing with the media, among other topics.

This season, Hutchison walked 35 and struck out 171 in 1491/3 innings.

“Some pitchers think they are going to get you out, Drew knows he’s going to get you out,” said Steve Springer, a Jays scout, in from Huntington Beach. Calif., for the mini-camp.

Three hours before the signing deadline, Hutchison was set to head across state to attend Stetson University as a two-way player for the Hatters, a shortstop and a right-hander before Jays area scout Joel Grampietro of Tampa upped the Jays offer.

“I was told there were special considerations,” Hutchison said Thursday in a clubhouse he hopes to own a locker in one day.

The right-hander earned roughly $1,600 per month from April to September and then the week before Thanksgiving went back to his usual part-time job working at S.W. Christmas Trees on South Florida Ave.

“We deliver and install as well,” said the salesman.

The location is open until Dec. 12 and “hopefully by then we’re sold out of trees,” said Hutchison.

The top sellers are Fraser Fir shipped in from North Carolina plus Nordmann Fir and Noble Fir, which arrive from Oregon each year.

What’s the No. 1 question a Christmas tree salesman in Florida is asked?

“Is it going to die,” answered Hutchison.

In the class-A Midwest League, the class-A Florida State league and double-A Eastern League, Hutchison faced some impressive prospects.

Yet, the toughest lineup he faced had to have been in spring training when he came over from minor-league camp and made a spot start against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater.

“Facing Ryan Howard was something I won’t forget,” said Hutchison, who pitched 42/3 innings allowing two unearned runs in a 7-6 Blue Jays victory.

He also faced the likes of everyday players Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins, Josh Barfield, Ben Francisco, a current Jay, Howard and Carlos Ruiz, who homered.

Hutchison may be from Florida and while snow is forecast for the weekend, the Florida native seen snow before, once in Arizona and another time in Georgia.

TOP 10 JAYS PROSPECTS

By Baseball America

1. C Travis d’Arnaud

2. CF Anthony Gose

3. OF Jake Marisnick

4. LHP Daniel Norris

5. LHP Justin Nicolino

6. RHP Aaron Sanchez

7. RHP Noah Syndergaard

8. RHP Deck McGuire

9. RHP Drew Hutchison

10. RHP Asher Wojciechowski


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