Count Toronto Blue Jays ace Ricky Romero among those who have been impressed by the development of Kyle Drabek this spring.
The 27-year-old left-hander was a guest Thursday on Brady & Lang on Sportsnet 590 The Fan and was asked what he thought of Drabek’s five shutout innings of work against the New York Yankees Tuesday night.
"Awesome," said Romero. "I was really excited. We all know what he went through and he had a little bit of a rough go last year, but he took that into consideration this off-season, worked hard and prepared himself.
"We’re seeing a different Kyle Drabek."
After beginning the 2011 season in the Blue Jays rotation, Drabek found himself in triple-A by mid-June after struggling to find the strike zone with any consistency, walking 48 batters in 72.2 innings while posting a 5.70 ERA and 1.789 WHIP with 52 strikeouts.
Following the demotion, Drabek continued to struggle, posting a 7.44 ERA and 2.027 WHIP with 41 walks and 45 strikeouts in 75 innings with the Las Vegas 51s in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
The 24-year-old Drabek reported to Blue Jays camp on Feb. 1 and he immediately began working on his mechanics, in particular, improving his command by cutting down on his tendency to overthrow by establishing a more consistent delivery.
To achieve this, during his bullpen sessions Drabek has been pitching off a mound with two yellow ropes on the ground; one placed to indicate where his foot should land, the other to tell him when he’s overthrown.
The early returns have been encouraging, with Drabek posting a 1.333 WHIP through 14.1 Grapefruit League innings with 12 strikeouts, and more tellingly, six walks.
"It seems to be working out so far," Drabek told Jeff Sammut on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Thursday. "Last year, I tried to change a bunch of stuff and it definitely didn’t work for me."
SPORTSNET 590 AUDIO: Kyle Drabek with Jeff sammut
With Dustin McGowan a likely candidate to begin the season on the disabled list with a foot injury and Brett Cecil battling command issues of his own, Drabek could find himself heading north with the Blue Jays when they kick off the 2012 season a week from today in Cleveland.
Whether or not Drabek begins the season with the big club, Romero sounded as if his friend and fellow hurler has turned a corner.
"He’s determined and the stuff speaks for itself," he said. "He’s nasty on the mound. I couldn’t be more excited for him and he’s excited too."