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Hutchison set to start Bisons opener

Last April, Drew Hutchison was leading the Blue Jays pitching staff as Toronto’s Opening Day Starter.

A year later, his journey took him down a level, where he will lead the Buffalo Bisons as they open the season Thursday in Pawtucket.

But Opening Day is Opening Day whether it’s Major League Baseball, Triple-A or Little League. And Hutchison is just ready to play ball.

“Just looking forward to playing baseball again, to being back out on the mound,” Hutchison said Tuesday afternoon as he met the Buffalo media before the Bisons’ first team workout at Coca-Cola Field. “Just looking forward to getting everything started.”

Hutchison was polite but terse in discussing the upcoming season, his winter workouts and his roster spot in Triple-A.

“You just have to go out there and take it one day at a time,” Hutchison said. “If you try to do too much, try to do this or that, you get in your own way. So you just go out there and control the things you can control and perform.”

Bisons’ manager Gary Allenson said the right-handed pitcher has come to Buffalo with a good attitude, despite obvious disappointment in not making the Blue Jays out of spring training.

“That’s the hardest part for him is the mental part,” Allenson said. “He’s not the first guy to get sent down to the minor leagues after performing well in the big leagues. Hopefully it won’t be too long.”

Hutchison finished 2015 with 13 wins – second most on the club – but with that came some plain weird numbers.

At home in Rogers Centre, he was a force, going 11-2 in 16 games with a 2.91 earned run average. On the road, he struggled, going 2-3 in 14 games with a 9.83 ERA.

He was solid in August, winning all four of his starts for Toronto then struggled in September and October, going 0-3 in four games.

In the offseason, Hutchison worked on his fastball, particularly throwing that pitch down in the zone.

“I think I made some positive changes with my delivery over the winter to put myself in a good position to be consistent and I think I was doing that in spring training,” Hutchison said.

Indeed, he did throw well for the Blue Jays in spring training. His numbers were good – 2-1 in six games with a 3.26 ERA. Physically he’s fine, even after getting hit in the back of the head on a throw from catcher A.J. Jimenez to second base during a game with the Tampa Bay Rays. “Oh it’s fine,” Hutchison said about the back of his head. “It’s good.”

But he ended up the odd man out of the Blue Jays starting staff once Aaron Sanchez was put in the rotation. So back to Buffalo he came.

“He had a pretty good spring, just didn’t make the club,” Allenson said. “It was a numbers game there. It probably won’t be too long for him down here. You know how things happen to pan out up there sometimes and we lose a number of guys here.”

But before that potential happens, there’s an Opening Day game to be played in Pawtucket on Thursday night, where highs are forecast to be in the 50s with rain and wind.

Control what you can control. So forget about the weather.

“I think it’s more just comfort level and getting out there and getting in it,” Hutchison said. “I don’t know a ton about pitching in cold weather. I’m from Florida. I’ve been pretty lucky. I haven’t had to do it very often, but it’s one of those things once you get out there and get going in the game you don’t think about it at all.”