Drew Sutton: The Emergence of the Pittsburgh Pirates' Do-It-All Utility Man
Playing second base and batting sixth in the order for Cincinnati was Drew Sutton, a young player trying to cut it in the big leagues, yet did not have much success.
Many stops later on a tour through professional baseball, Sutton finds himself on the team he faced that day nearly three full seasons ago and is performing at a level he had yet to display.
Sutton was originally drafted in the 38th round by the Colorado Rockies in 2002, yet didn't sign, instead opting to play ball at Baylor University, He would go on to be drafted by the Houston Astros in the 15th round of the 2004 MLB Draft.
After signing with Houston, Sutton spent five seasons in Houston's minor-league system, stopping at Tri-City, Lexington, Salem, Corpus Christi and Round Rock. Sutton's finest season came for Double-A Corpus Christi in 2008 where he had a .931 OPS, hit 20 homers and drove in 69 runs.
During the 2009 season, Sutton was traded to the Reds for Jeff Keppinger and saw his first major-league action. His line wasn't terribly impressive however, as he managed to only hit .212 with minimal power.
The next year, he didn't see any improvements with the Reds, and after flipping between Triple-A and the big leagues, he was waived and later selected off waivers by the Cleveland Indians. Yet, Sutton still wasn't producing, hitting .222 and bouncing between Cleveland and Columbus.
Sutton was granted free agency after spending a couple months in the Indians organization and signed with the Red Sox. Sutton would finally show that he might have some potential, splitting time between Boston and Pawtucket, yet didn't receive substantial at-bats. Sutton was granted free agency yet again, and signed with the Atlanta Braves, his fifth major league organization.
Sutton failed to make the Braves out of spring training, and was sent to Gwinnett. On May 20th, he was purchased by the Pirates from the Braves, only to be purchased by the Rays from the Pirates the very next day.
Sutton spent the next month playing for the Rays, his seventh professional organization in the past four seasons, and played well with relatively low playing time. On June 24th, the Pirates would claim the utility man off of waivers again, for the second time this season, and place him on the major league roster to replace Jordy Mercer, so that he could get playing time in Triple-A.
Sutton was expected to fill out the final spot and receive minimal playing time as well. Yet, this time would be different for the 29-year-old, possibly his final chance to ever stick in the big leagues.
His first at-bat came as a pinch-hitter in Philadelphia, and Sutton hammered a double for an RBI in a game the Pirates eventually lost. The next day, Sutton found himself in the lineup, playing the outfield in the place of the struggling Jose Tabata.
Sutton went 2-for-4 with a double and another RBI, as well as another well-deserved start. By the time the Bucs came back to Pittsburgh to face the Astros, Sutton's original organization, he was hitting .353. But the magic was truly just beginning.
After going 2-for-5 in the first game of the series with a triple, Sutton was 2-for-4 and due up second in the bottom of the ninth the next night in a game where Joel Hanrahan blew a rare save and the score was 7-7.
Sutton hit a high, outside pitch that looked like it would only create a medium-depth fly ball to center, yet, it instead carried deep into the night, beyond the center field fence, winning the game for the Pirates and creating one of the best moments in PNC Park history.
Rounding first, Sutton displayed the type of emotion you rarely see in a midseason baseball game against one of the worst teams in the bigs. He looked as if he was Bill Mazeroski rounding the bases after defeating the Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series.
For Sutton, the home run was more then just an awe-inspiring walk-off, it was representative of a man not willing to give up after years of failing, years of traveling the minor leagues, hopping from city to city just to continue to chase his dream of success.
Much like this year's Pirates, this revival is an inspirational story that we can all only hope continues all summer long.
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