Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek have been following each other around for the better part of a year.
Call it a sort of tag-team rehabilitation story.
Last June the two starters for the Toronto Blue Jays suffered season-ending injuries two days apart. Both had Tommy John surgery in the offseason. And both have been on the rehab trail ever since.
The road led to Buffalo on Wednesday as both took to the mound for three innings for the Herd.
It was Drabek who shut the door on Rochester as the Bisons’ offense kicked into gear late to earn an 8-3 win in front of 7,778 at Coca-Cola Field.
The win was key in the Herd’s playoff push, bringing them 2½ games behind Rochester in the International League North Division. A win by Pawtucket keeps the Bisons a half game back in the wild-card race.
And a win by Drabek looks awfully good for the 25-year-old who is coming off his second Tommy John surgery.
Drabek came in the game in the sixth, facing the minimum. The only base-runner got on board via error and was then caught stealing.
He threw 32 pitches, 20 for strikes, and struck out three batters.
“It’s one of the best outings I’ve seen from Kyle, staying under control,” Bisons manager Marty Brown said. “To see him that poised on the mound and not just beating himself up over every pitch. He had good fastball command, good bite to his curveball. Everything about that outing was really positive. We can’t wait to get him back out there to start.”
It was a different feeling for Drabek, a starter, to come out of the bullpen. But after a few long warm-up tosses, he was ready.
“Felt good. It felt a lot better than I thought it would,” Drabek said. “As a starter, at least for me, it feels weird coming out of the pen, but today it felt pretty good. … I’m pretty much back to where I was, I feel like. I can’t wait to see how it feels at 100 percent instead of 98 or whatever it feels like.”
Drabek had ligament reconstruction in his elbow in 2008 when he was in the Philadelphia Phillies organization. Even though he’s been through this rehab rodeo before, the comeback is slightly different.
“It’s a longer rehab and a little harder on the arm,” Drabek said. “I remember after the first one having the offseason and coming back, it felt like I never had it. It feels great right now, but I can’t wait for next year.”
Patience with the comeback season is a topic he’s discussed with Hutchinson as the two help each other through the process.
“I remember telling him if there’s any sort of little pain make sure someone knows about it,” Drabek said. “After a surgery like this, there’s no reason to come back the first full year and be a hero. I think I did that my first time and it started getting real sore and I had to actually take a little time off. That was one of the main things I told him.”
Hutchison made his second start with the Bisons on Wednesday and had a tough first two innings, giving up two runs on three extra base hits (two doubles and a triple) along with two walks and a hit batter. He had a better third, giving up a hit with two strikeouts. But after 72 pitches, he was done.
“He threw a lot of pitches but he obviously did not want to come out of the game,” Brown said. “He said he kind of figured something out in his last inning of work. I said I’m fine with that, but you’re going to have to wait for four days. It’s obviously frustrating.”
The Bisons trailed 3-1 but tied the game in the sixth on a two-run homer from Clint Robinson – his first of the year.
The Herd took the lead in the seventh on an RBI single from Sean Ochinko then scored four in the eighth, three on a Moises Sierra homer.
Before the game, the Herd lost two key position players – outfielder Kevin Pillar and shortstop Munenori Kawasaki – after the Blue Jays placed center fielder Colby Rasmus on the disabled list with a strained oblique – he injured it Sunday against Oakland – and then traded second baseman Emilio Bonifacio to Kansas City for a player to be named or cash.
Kawasaki was recalled for his third stint with the Blue Jays. Pillar went 0 for 4 in his major league debut Wednesday against Boston.
Brown said he expects outfielder Brad Glenn and catcher AJ Jimenez to be promoted to the Herd from Double-A New Hampshire.
The Bisons continue their homestand today (1:05 p.m., TWC 713, Radio 1520 AM) with Justin Germano (8-8, 4.87) scheduled to start for the Herd against P.J. Walters (5-3, 4.10).