The Salt River coaching staff told Drew Hutchison he had 60 pitches to work with Saturday. The Toronto right-hander didn't need quite that many.
Hutchison, 14 months removed from Tommy John surgery, needed just 48 pitches to log four hitless frames for the Rafters in an 8-2 Arizona Fall League victory over the Mesa Solar Sox.
"I felt good tonight," the 23-year-old said. "Definitely, all my pitches were working tonight. Everything was crisp. I did a lot of what I wanted to do."
The Blue Jays farmhand struck out five and walked one in the outing, giving way to Colorado's Kraig Sitton, who kept the no-hitter intact until the sixth inning. Top Nationals prospect Brian Goodwin notched Mesa's first hit when he grounded a leadoff single into left field.
The start was Hutchison's second in the AFL, and he's yet to allow an earned run over 6 2/3 innings.
The hurler underwent surgery in August of 2012 after making his Major League debut earlier that summer, managing a 4.60 ERA in 11 starts with Toronto.
He returned to game action in early July, making 10 appearances -- nine starts -- across three levels, with a 4.84 ERA, 42 strikeouts and 14 walks in 35 1/3 innings. He finished the year with five starts with Triple-A Buffalo, posting a 6.63 ERA in 19 innings.
Hutchison rose through the Minor Leagues as a groundball pitcher, posting groundout-to-flyout rates of 1.60, 1.33 and 1.06 in 2010, 2011 and 2012, respectively. That ability evaded him in his regular season appearances this summer, as he posted a 0.54 groundout-to-flyout ratio. The right-hander allowed two home runs over 35 1/3 innings, halfway to his career worst of four homers allowed, reached over 149 1/3 innings in 2011.
The 23-year-old has been giving his infielders more reps in the AFL. In his first start on Oct. 14, he managed a 5.00 groundout-to-flyout ratio over 2 2/3 innings against Surprise. He allowed a pair of unearned runs on three hits in that outing.
The grounders continued Saturday, as Hutchison induced four groundouts over four innings, including three over his final two frames. The 2009 15th-round pick said he uses both a four-seamer and a sinker and that both pitches felt good Saturday.
"I think that was just making better pitches," he said. "When you make better pitches down in the zone, you will get more grounders."
Hutchison said he now feels like his health has fully returned, and his focus is now on logging innings and using the AFL to prepare for next season.
"I just try to go out every day and get better and get healthy," he said. "I feel completely healthy now. It's just a process of getting out on the mound again and getting better every time out. I felt good tonight, and I'm just hoping to be ready to go in Spring Training."
Mesa broke through with a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh, sparked by a leadoff single from the Cubs' No. 3 prospect Jorge Soler. He and Nationals prospect Steven Souza Jr. later scored on a double by Angels prospect Jett Bandy.
Salt River rallied in the ninth, taking the lead when Cristhian Adames' bases loaded groundball was thrown away by the Angels' No. 3 prospect Taylor Lindsey, allowing three runners to score and Adames to advanced to third. Seven Rafters batters crossed the plate in the inning