Drabek excited about Major League debut
Right-hander slated to face Baltimore on Wednesday
BALTIMORE -- The couple of days that 22-year-old Blue Jays right-hander Kyle Drabek has to prepare for his Major League debut on Wednesday against the Orioles is a fortunate bonus.
On Monday, Drabek's first day in Toronto's clubhouse, was his normal throwing day, a critical preparation step as the Jays expand to a six-man rotation.
Toronto manager Cito Gaston admitted that having two days to acclimate himself to new surroundings should help Drabek, who was acquired in the trade that sent Roy Halladay to the Phillies last December and is considered Toronto's best pitching prospect.
"[We'll] see how he can stay calm and cool out there, deal with the pressure," Gaston said. "It's all about pitching and playing up here, dealing with the pressure. If you can deal with it, if you can play here, you can pitch here. ... As long as he stays calm, he should be OK."
Drabek, the son of 13-year Major League veteran Doug Drabek, is familiar with the Majors, having grown up around clubhouses. He even remembers hanging around Camden Yards in 1998, when his father closed out his career by going 6-11 for the Orioles.
Kyle Drabek learned of his recall on Sunday morning, surprising his parents with the news when they returned home from a doughnut run. He arrived in Baltimore at 11 p.m. ET on Sunday and spent Monday afternoon throwing his side session, and answering questions about how excited he was for his long-awaited arrival in the Majors. Drabek went 14-9 with a 2.94 ERA in 27 starts for Double-A New Hampshire, which was eliminated from the Eastern League playoffs by Trenton last week.
"I can come here, kind of hang out with the guys, get to know them more," Drabek said. "I have time to watch a few games. Definitely watch [Baltimore's] hitters, too. It's going to be exciting today, being in the dugout for my first big league game, and then getting ready for the start on Wednesday."
He's particularly happy to share the moment with his father. Doug Drabek, his wife and daughter will fly from the family's home outside Houston to Baltimore on Tuesday. Kyle's brother will drive up from South Carolina on Wednesday.
"Ever since I got drafted, [dad's] been great," he said. "To be able to go home, it's like having a pitching coach who lives with you. ... He taught me so much, not only about the physical part of the game but the mental part too."
Comparisons between father -- a bulldog competitor who excelled for the dominant Pittsburgh teams of the 1990s and won a Cy Young Award in 1990 -- and son are inevitable. What's Kyle's scouting report of how he stacks up against his famous dad?
"I'd have to say that we're both aggressive," Kyle said. "I heard he was aggressive and I think I've got a little faster fastball than him, but he had all the offspeed stuff down. I need to watch tapes on [his curveball]. He likes to think everything's better. I'm going to have to say me for right now, until I can go back [to video] and watch him pitch."
Kyle Drabek worked hard this summer to improve his changeup and thinks he's ready for the Majors. He was a little worried when he heard Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos talk about limiting his workload as he piled up 162 innings at Double-A.
"I don't like the innings thing," Drabek said. "I want to be able to go out there and pitch as long as I can and compete as hard as I can. I'm just glad I was able to finish, to be at this point of the year and have a fairly fresh arm."
Now, with the innings limit no longer a concern, Drabek must combat the inevitable adrenaline rush that will accompany his first Major League start.
"It might be a little bit too high, so I might have to try and calm myself down when I get out there," he said. "I know when I get out on the mound for the first time that I'll have a lot of nerves. After I throw that first pitch, it becomes a normal baseball game."
Lewis gets shot to prove Orioles wrong
BALTIMORE -- Rommie Lewis has finally made it to Camden Yards, something the Blue Jays left-hander and longtime Baltimore farmhand thought might never happen.
"I've never seen a game here, never thought I'd actually get to play here," Lewis said before Monday's opener of a three-game series against his former organization.
"The time has come, I guess."
The 28-year-old was a fourth-round pick of the Orioles in the 2001 Draft and spent seven years in the club's farm system, topping out with two seasons at Double-A Bowie in 2007-08. He was 1-6 with a 3.41 ERA in 38 games, including five starts in 2008, but turned down the contract he was offered in the offseason, because he felt he wouldn't get a chance to move up.
"They offered me a contract and I said, 'No thanks,' Lewis said. "It's worked out better than I could imagine. I felt like I was dead in the water with those guys, just an organizational guy. They showed me no signs of moving me up -- I was there eight years and never got above Double-A."
Lewis signed with Toronto in January 2009 and, for the first time in his career, worked solely out of the bullpen the following season, splitting time between Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Las Vegas. He was recalled from Las Vegas on Sept. 5 after going 1-5 with a 7.59 ERA in 24 games, including eight starts.
The left-hander has made 14 appearances this season with the Blue Jays, posting a 6.75 ERA. Seven of his outings have been for more than one inning, meaning Lewis has at least found a niche. Lewis said the frequent changes in personnel precluded him from doing so in Baltimore.
"There were three or four different Minor League development directors [while he was with Baltimore], a ton of moves in the front office," Lewis said. "They were trying to find that right mix, and I still think they're searching."
Lewis has kept in contact with former Orioles manager Dave Trembley, who managed him in the Baltimore organization, and exchanged text messages with a couple of his former teammates. Lewis said the prospect of pitching against his original organization is a motivational tool.
"It gives me a little extra fuel to the fire," he said. "We've got a lot of history together."
Gaston isn't having second thoughts
BALTIMORE -- Cito Gaston must be getting used to the song-and-dance routine. Again on Monday, the Blue Jays skipper was asked whether he had any second thoughts about his plans to relinquish managerial duties after the current season, and again he emphatically sounded like a man prepared to step away from the dugout.
"No," Gaston said. "I think if I was probably, maybe four years younger I might [entertain a return]. It's going to be a few years before they really get to where they really want to go. If [general manager Alex Anthopoulos] can find someone that he finds he wants to keep around that long, I think it'll be better that way, I really do."
Of course, it's a manager's prerogative to think ahead -- even if you're planning to move on. A few minutes later, responding to a question about who could be an effective leadoff hitter for the Blue Jays, Gaston was endorsing shortstop Yunel Escobar for a turn atop the lineup in 2011.
"[Escobar's] a good candidate for it," Gaston said. "The only thing he doesn't have, he's not a base stealer. But he does have a pretty good eye up there, as far as getting on base. It depends on who they go out and get next year."
Pete Kerzel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.