With the Reading Phillies in town to play the Akron Aeros this week, I got a chance to talk to Reading starting pitcher Kyle Drabek. Drabek, the son of former Cy Young award winner Doug Drabek, is the No. 5 rated prospect in the Phillies organization, according to Baseball America. He is off to a sizzling start this season with 9-1 record, split between High A Clearwater and Reading, with a 2.58 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 108.1 innings. With Reading he is 5-0 with a 2.70 ERA.
Here is the transcript of our conversation:
JF: Growing up as the son of a Cy Young pitcher, what has that experience been like for you and how has (experience) put you ahead as a baseball player?
KD: It is great. Having him at home and being able to teach me everything about baseball is great. Some of the things he taught me I still used today, which, I think, is good. Everything that he did for me when I was younger was great.
JF: How much farther ahead does it put you having a dad like that at home who knows major league baseball and knows how the game operates so well?
KD: I would say it puts me a little bit ahead, being able to talk to him about anything and he has been there. Whatever he gives me, I’ll make sure I’ll keep.
JF: When he played it was a little bit different. I know you went through Tommy John Surgery (in 2007). During his era they wouldn’t be coming back as quick (from the surgery). Tell me about the Tommy John Surgery and what you learned about yourself through rehabbing.
KD: I learned a lot while rehabbing. I learned a lot about the game, matured a lot. I think knowing I could get injured and it could happen again kind of hit me hard. I realized I needed to start working out harder. Start conditioning harder, just doing everything a little bit harder than what I was doing so I can stay healthy.
JF: Coming off the Tommy John you are 9-1 this year, do you think there was a big improvement after you got back from the surgery in how you pitched on the mound?
KD: I think my motion probably the first thing that changed a lot and I think that allowed me to hit my spots a lot better. My fastball command is a lot better than it used to be before Tommy John
JF: Your emotion?
KD: No, my motion. I wasn’t able to look at home plate enough, so I was just kind of throwing it. Now I am looking at home plate the whole time, so I am able to see where I am throwing it.
JF: What is the most difficult part of playing Double A baseball…what has been the biggest challenge for you?
KD: The hitters. They are better than they are in High A. They take better pitches. They hit more mistakes and I think that is really the big thing. The hitters get better.
JF: Obviously you are 9-1 this season; you are having a good year. Getting close to the trade deadline, I’ve heard your name dangled in maybe a Roy Halladay trade or something like that. What does it mean to you to hear your name possibly getting thrown around in some of these trades?
KD: I try not to think about it too much. I mean whatever happens, happens. I talked to my dad about it and he just said to not think about it too much and to just make sure I go out there and keep competing.
JF: Getting back to your dad, what is the most important thing that he ever taught you about pitching that sticks every time you ever go the mound?
KD: A lot of stuff. Probably the one thing is mound presence. He always told me that if a fan walked in the fifth inning and couldn’t tell if you are winning or losing, that is a good thing. Just talking about how, if you have a bad game, you just have to stay in there and keep competing and just make sure you are not showing a lot of emotions.
JF: You have any funs stories from when you were little, hanging out in the clubhouse with dad?
KD: Not too many. He said that when he was with the Astros a lot of guys would play pranks on us, me and my brother, but I don’t really remember any of those.
JF: What years was he with the Pirates?
KD: I want to say like 87 to 91, I think?
JF: So he was there during the Barry Bonds era.
KD: Him and Bobby Bonilla and all those guys.
JF: (Andy) Van Slyke. That had to be a fun time in Pittsburgh.
KD: He said he had a lot of fun, especially playing for Leyland. He said he is a great manager.
JF: I do have to ask, I think the last question I have for you, is you guys have those powder blue (uniforms) in there, man. It looked like a throw back when I saw them (Monday). Tell me about those. As a player what are your thoughts?
KD: They don’t look real good. I’d rather not wear them, but we have to. Those are our road jerseys. It would be nice to have some grey jerseys. It isn’t that bad, but they just don’t look good at all.