Hutchison can't gain ground in rotation audition

Veteran right-hander allows six runs over 3 1/3 frames in Pirates' loss

Hutchison can't gain ground in rotation audition

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates' rotation competition rolled on and remained open Friday.

Right-hander Drew Hutchison gave up six runs on seven hits and two walks in 3 1/3 inefficient innings in an 8-6 loss to the Orioles at LECOM Park. Trevor Williams pitched four innings in a "B" game against four Orioles sluggers and returned with positive reviews.

Those two are in the mix for what is assumed to be the final rotation spot behind Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Ivan Nova and Chad Kuhl. Cole, Taillon and Nova are set in stone, while Kuhl is the frontrunner for the fourth spot.

The Pirates will get another look at the other two candidates on Saturday, when top prospect Tyler Glasnow and left-hander Steven Brault are scheduled to pitch against the Phillies. The club still has a little more than two weeks to set its Opening Day roster.

"I try not to think about it, but this competition has been good for our entire staff," Williams said. "We have the luxury of having more than five great starters that can pitch at the Major League level. It's going to be a tough decision for them, but I'm glad I play baseball and they make those decisions."

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Hutchison's rough outing was a step back after an encouraging start to Spring Training. He cruised through his first inning, striking out two, then gave up two runs in the second. He ran into more trouble in the third, walking two batters in a three-run inning. Hutchison gave up another run in the fourth before exiting.

"I got a little bit passive instead of aggressive in that [third] inning, and paid for it," Hutchison said. "When I was aggressive and made pitches, I had success."

Manager Clint Hurdle acknowledged that Hutchison's "overall execution" on Friday didn't match up with his previous performances. Hutchison had only allowed two runs in his first nine innings this spring, both of them on home runs.

"I feel like I've thrown the ball pretty well, with the exception of today," Hutchison said. "It was not my best. I'm better than what I showed today. Focus on that moving forward."

There were no stats from Williams' mid-morning outing in Sarasota, Fla., an unofficial game in which he faced Pedro Alvarez, J.J. Hardy, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo -- an "A" lineup in a "B" game.

"Those are elite Major Leaguers, so it was nice to see how they're swinging against my stuff," Williams said. "It was good. It definitely turned my brain on more that I was pitching against them."

Williams said he mostly worked on his offspeed pitches, trying to throw his changeup for strikes and get hitters to swing and miss at his slider. According to the report Hurdle received from pitching coach Ray Searage, Williams threw all his pitches and aggressively attacked the zone.

"Ray liked what he saw from him over there," Hurdle said. "Tough lineup, good challenge."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.