Fisher Cats have emotional investment in Hutchison

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:13 AM ET

TORONTO - The New Hampshire Fisher Cats' bus was in the home stretch.

A 6-2 Memorial Day decision over Binghamton on Monday afternoon was in the loss column as the bus motored on into the night along Highway 90 East, in the final stage of its six-hour trip to Manchester, N.H.

And 585 miles away at the Rogers Centre, right-hander Drew Hutchison, who was in the Fisher Cats' rotation when the Eastern League season began, was in the home stretch too.

With two Baltimore Orioles aboard in the seventh inning, Hutchison caught infielder Robert Andino looking at a 95-m.p.h. fastball.

At the front of the bus, where all managers sit, New Hampshire manager Sal Fasano sat in the dark glued to his laptop watching MLB.com's Gameday, eagerly anticipating the next pitch.

"I couldn't get the wireless on the bus to work so I could see him pitch on MLB TV," said Fasano, "but I could follow along pitch by pitch on my machine."

A few rows back, pitchers gathered to watch Hutchison while he was surrounded by Orioles runners in the third inning with two out. Nick Markakis bounced a ground ball to the mound and Hutchison threw to first for the final out.

"My connection was a tick quicker than the other guy's machines, so I yelled out: 'He got out of it,' " Fasano said. "I guess I should have given them a spoiler alert."

This is the minor-league way, the minor-league life.

When someone is promoted you think: "Why not me?"

Yet when your former teammate is on a major-league mound and in a jam, you live and die with every pitch.

Fellow rotation members Chad Jenkins (first round 2009, from Kennesaw State), Deck McGuire (first round, 2010, from Georgia Tech), Brett Cecil (first round, 2007, Maryland) and Joel Carreno (a free-agent sign in 2004) were on the bus.

"We could see the velocities, tell what pitch he threw," Fasano said. "He had a lot of punchouts ... nine strikeouts. A lot of pitches ... 114. I'd only seen him go to 85, I think."

Hutchison pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing three hits, walking three and striking out nine.

"All the pitchers really care about each other."

OTHER ARMS

Hutchison, a 14th-round draft pick as a Lakeland, Fla. high schooler in 2009, is faring better than the big men on campus.

McGuire retired the first 15 Binghamton hitters in succession Monday before allowing four runs on two hits, a walk, and a hit batter.

"Deck has had ups and downs, more downs this season unfortunately," Fasano said.

"When he's off, he yanks off to the first-base side, he needs to command the inner side of the plate ... like he did in Binghamton."

McGuire is 2-6 with a 6.80 ERA, walking 16 and striking out 28 in 49 innings.

Fasano said Cecil's previous two starts have been "big league."

"He's been focussing on his fastball, averaging 89 and topped out 92," Fasano said. "I didn't see him with the big club, so I can't compare him."

Fasano made his managing debut at Lansing in 2010 and two of his former relievers joined him: Lefty Aaron Loup and Scott Gracey.

"If you'd told me they were going to pitch this in double-A in 2012, back in 2010 I would have thought they would it would have taken a little longer," Fasano said.

Gracey, who has two innings at N.H., has been clocked at 93-94 m.p.h. and in his N.H. debut was at 97 m.p.h. against Binghamton. Loup has logged 25 innings and has a 1.80 ERA.

"He lives the simple life, a good ol' boy, a Cajun from Louisiana," Fasano said. "We dropped his arm slot to low three-quarters. Some times you drop, you lose velocity, he hasn't, he's still 91-93. He has a future as a left-hander specialist."

DOWN ON THE FARM

There was a time when the Jays were knee deep in catching prospects: Travis d'Arnaud, A.J. Jimenez and Carlos Perez. Jimenez blew out his elbow last week and needed Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He was hitting .257 with two homers and 10 RBIs at New Hampshire. He had not appeared in a game since May 13. Sean Ochinko and Brian Jerolman, the Moonlight Graham of the franchise, has shared the catching duties. Meanwhile infielder Koby Clemens has been demoted to Dunedin to work on catching.

Jesus Hernandez worked seven innings allowing one run and striking out seven as Lansing beat Lake County 10-1. Shane Opitz was 3-for-5 with a homer and three RBIs, giving him 11 hits and eight RBIs in his previous 10 games.

North Vancouver's Scott Richmond worked eight scoreless, allowing three hits and fanning four, as Las Vegas beat Salt Lake 9-0, as Anthony Gose, Adam Lind and d'Arnaud each had a pair of hits.

Asher Wojciechowski pitched six innings, allowing one run and fanning eight, as Dunedin rallied in the ninth to edge Brevard County 4-3.

POWER RANKINGS

How an opposing evaluator rates the Jays' top prospects:

1. Travis d'Araund (.313 average, 11 homers, 31 RBIs in 43 games, .949 OPS at Vegas).

"I like the way he's adjusted to facing triple-A pitching and he's still staying solid behind the plate."

2. Anthony Gose (.293, three, 24, in 50 games, .791 at Vegas).

"He started slowly, but he's progressing. He might be one of the youngest in the league facing former big-league arms, crafty veterans and he's still hitting, still stealing bases (21). Impressive."

3. Adeiny Hechavarria (.316, four, 34 in 49 games, .825 at Vegas).

"He has 14 doubles, I saw a young Omar Vizquel, Hechavarria might be the best shortstop I've ever seen, better than Jimmy Rollins or Rey Ordonez."

4. Mike McDade (.324, nine, 29 in 48 games, .911 OPS at N.H.)

"He has almost as many walks this year (19) that he had in 125 games last season (28). He's the best defensive first baseman in their organization, one of the best in the minors. He's big (6-foot-1, 250 lbs.) but he's a hard worker from what I've seen."

5. Jake Marisnick (.258, three, 25 in 45 game, .758 OPS at Dunedin).

"He's going to be a great major-leaguer, he has all the attributes. Some day they are going to have Colby Rasmus, Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra in the outfield, with this guy knocking on the door."


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