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Pirates notebook: Hutchison makes strong case to become No. 5 starter

| Friday, March 10, 2017, 6:54 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Drew Hutchison delivers during the first inning against the Rays Friday, March 10, 2017, at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates left fielder Jose Osuna breaks his bat on a fly out during the fourth inning against the Rays Friday, March 10, 2017, at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Pirates' Joey Terdoslavich is tagged out as he tries to score on a sacrifice fly against the Rays Friday, March 10, 2017, at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Appearing for the third time in Grapefruit League play, Drew Hutchison on Friday made his first start of the spring.

He's making the case that he will be starting games for the Pirates come April, too.

Hutchison, purportedly battling Steven Brault and Trevor Williams to be the Pirates' No. 5 starter, acquitted himself well in becoming the first Pirates pitcher to go four innings this spring during a 4-1 win against the Tampa Bay Rays.

“I thought it was a good day, productive,” Hutchison said after allowing one run on three hits and two walks with five strikeouts in four innings. “I was able to really get my fastball going and get into a good rhythm.”

“Drew hit spots,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “I saw him attack the zone. He used his fastball down, and he used it up — with intent when he wanted to. He threw a few cutters. The slider had good shape. That's the guy that we have seen have some success.”

Spring statistics, of course, tell only a fraction of the story.

But Hutchison has allowed just nine baserunners (six hits, three walks) with nine strikeouts in nine innings. Armed with a $2.3 million salary — and with being known as the lone compensation in a deal that sent two prospects and last season's opening-day starter away to Toronto last August — Hutchison holds advantages in his battle with Brault and Williams.

Pitching coach Ray Searage said during his first spring training working with Hutchison, he's “tweaked just a couple things — not major stuff, not major stuff at all — but just get him so things can flow more easily and be more consistent.”

“He kept himself in very good shape over the winter,” Hurdle said. “Showed up at minicamps, showed up early. He wants to get some things done, wants to re-establish himself at the major league level. So it's fun to watch him have the opportunity to go out and compete.”

Sacrificial pitchers

The Pirates had three sacrifices Friday — and for the second time in three days, their starting pitcher laid down a successful bunt. Hutchison advanced Eury Perez in the fourth.

“Our (pitchers) work very hard at this,” Hurdle said. “When they're not pitching they are set up with execution games, handling the bat, the bunt, the slug bunt, to do all those things. So it doesn't surprise us when they get it done. They take a lot of pride in it — we actually keep score and have some healthy competition back there. He expected to get it down, and he did.”

Around the horn

Seven players from the Pirates' big league camp took part in the Bradenton Marauders' championship ring ceremony taking place on the field at LECOM Park 30 minutes before Thursday's first pitch. Class High-A Bradenton won its first Florida State League championship last season. ... Reliever Jared Hughes was named part of the advisory board for the Taylor Hooten Foundation for advocacy against appearance and performance-enhancing drugs by the youth of America. Hughes is one of 32 major leaguers on the board, which was formed in 2014.

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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