So, how much stock can one put in 19 pitches from a hurler who hasn’t stepped foot on a major league mound in 15 months, and who is coming off major elbow surgery for the second time in his pro career?
99.99 percent of the time, the answer would probably be none at all. Well, Toronto Blue Jays fans, meet the 0.01 percent: Kyle Drabek.
To be fair, there’s realistically nothing in the right-hander’s first big league outing that should be counted against him, given that it’s something of a minor miracle he’s even made his way back form a pair of Tommy John surgeries, but … and I suppose you could call this a nagging feeling, the sense of deja vu of his brief outing on the mound was difficult to ignore.
You know the guy who’d tweaked his delivery to something a little cleaner during his rehab in the minors, and who posted a sterling 1.3 BB/9 through 43 innings over three different levels? That man was nowhere to be found in the eighth inning of the Blue Jays’ blowout victory over the Minnesota Twins on Saturday night.
Though it was just a minor blemish in what’d been a complete offensive effort, the fact of the matter is that of the 19 pitches Drabek threw with the bases empty, only seven went for strikes. While the 25-year old did settle nicely into a low 90s fastball which at least demonstrates his health, he failed to retire a single batter, allowing a run on three singles and a free pass.
Sound familiar, no?
Yes, the reasonable thing to do here would be to take this outing as a one-time event and consider the circumstances around it; but given that Drabek had a … penchant for generosity prior to his second surgery, there’s a rather large sample size full of outings like this one to consider, too.
It was perhaps the very first batter he faced, Trevor Plouffe, who did most of the rattling of the bluebirds hurler on this night. After giving up a line drive single on a seventh pitch in a 3-2 count, Drabek was unable to throw a first strike to his next three batters and in fact threw just three strikes over his next 12 pitches … with two of them being hit for singles.
Were the two ground ball that found holes a little bit of bad luck? Perhaps. You could also look to the fact that he managed to generate grounders off his four-seamer as a minor positive besides him being on the mound.
Still, even in a mulligan situation, it’s disappointing to see how old habits die hard with the young right-hander, and as the inconsequential outings turn into ones where the results will matter next season, Drabek will have to show more than just health — and the sooner he does, the better.
Because if you were to take a cynic’s point of view, you could say that it’s like Drabek never really left at all … and that’s hardly a good thing.