Drew Hutchinson making case to be Phillies No. 5 starter

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CLEARWATER, FL - FEBRUARY 20: Drew Hutchinson #33 of the Philadelphia Phillies poses for a portrait on February 20, 2018 at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
CLEARWATER, FL - FEBRUARY 20: Drew Hutchinson #33 of the Philadelphia Phillies poses for a portrait on February 20, 2018 at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) /
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Non-roster invitee Drew Hutchinson continued his strong spring Saturday as he continues to make his case to be in the Phillies rotation.

Injuries to Jerad Eickhoff and Mark Leiter, Jr. have opened up spots on the Phillies‘ roster for guys who weren’t expected to have a chance. The team now needs a fifth starter and a long man in the bullpen.

An unlikely candidate to earn a roster spot this year coming into spring training was Drew Hutchinson. A four-year veteran with a career 4.93 ERA and 1.365 WHIP isn’t someone who is usually considered a strong contender for a roster spot.

However, Hutchinson has made a strong case for himself so far this spring. He has given up more than one run in just one of his five outings. He has a 3.45 ERA with 14 strikeouts and five walks in 15.2 innings. He has done this all while facing batters of who average between Triple-A and MLB-quality.

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Hutchinson had his best outing of the spring Saturday against the Tigers. He pitched four shutout innings, allowing just one hit while striking out three.

Manager Gabe Kapler said Hutchinson is in “strong position” for a roster spot, but said that the team still has some roster decisions to make in the near future. Hutchinson could have activated an opt-out Friday, meaning he would have to be added to the 40-man roster Sunday or be released.

Hutchinson is certainly in the running for the last rotation spot left vacated by Eickhoff’s injury. He is competing with Ben Lively and Zach Eflin for the last spot. Hutchinson has certainly outperformed Eflin and is on par with Lively as spring training enters its final week. Lively and Eflin may get one last outing to show their stuff before everyone heads back north for Opening Day.

Hutchinson could also fill Leiter’s role as the long man in the bullpen. Leiter is expected to miss most, if not all, of April due to a flexor strain in his right arm. Someone needs to be in the bullpen to pitch a few innings if a starter gets hurt early or has a poor outing. Hutchinson could fill that role.

Kapler told reporters that the team could use Hutchinson in a long relief role: [quote via Todd Zolecki of MLB.com]

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"“We’d be very comfortable using him in a long-relief role because of the way his slider plays,” Kapler said. “We’d be comfortable using him in a shorter look, and we’d also be comfortable starting a game with him, if necessary. He profiles very well in multiple positions out of the ‘pen and as a starter. And as you guys know, we prize flexibility.”"

If Hutchinson is going to make the Opening Day roster, someone else has to be taken off. It continues to be tossed around that Cameron Rupp could be removed from the 40-man roster via trade or an outright release. One of the other relievers on the 40-man could be removed as well.

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With a strong spring and the ability to pitch in multiple roles, Hutchinson may be able to take advantage of the new holes on the roster.

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