Kyle Drabek is healthy and confident, pitching exactly the way the Blue Jays hoped when they acquired him during the offseason.
The former first-round pick went a season-high seven innings and picked up his Minor League-leading fourth victory Friday as the New Hampshire Fisher Cats beat the Reading Phillies, 6-3.
"It's a nice feeling," Drabek said after his fifth start. "I'm just trying to work on my pitching and do anything I can to get to the next level as quick as possible."
Facing his former team, the 22-year-old right-hander moved into a tie for the Minor League lead in wins after striking out seven and allowing two runs on four hits and four walks.
"I felt good, we had a an off-day, so it allowed me to prepare one more day," said Drabek, who finished his breakout 2009 season with Reading. "My arm felt real good today. I think that helped with my fastball location."
He's 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA over his last three starts, spanning 17 2/3 innings.
"I'm working with [my fastball] here and there, but mainly my changeup is what I need to improve on," he said. "It's been a lot better since it was when I left Spring Training. It's been progressing and it's starting to feel real good."
Drabek, who faced 27 batters, allowed both of his runs on homers. His first, a one-out solo shot by Tuffy Gosewisch in the fifth, came on a fastball off the plate.
"I threw what I thought was a great fastball outside, but he took it the other way and got a hold of it pretty good," said Drabek of his former batterymate. "Tuffy's a great hitter, but I was surprised he hit it so far."
Tyson Gillies added a leadoff shot in the sixth, only the second run Drabek's allowed in his last 11 innings.
"I threw a two-seamer and he got a hold of it pretty good," he said. "He can hit it a long way, and he got just enough."
Drabek struck out two of the next three batters to end the frame and worked around a leadoff double in the seventh to end his night. He said his pitch count was the factor in his longest outing of the season.
The Victoria, Texas, native is coming off a season in which he went 12-3 with a 3.19 ERA in 25 outings between Class A Advanced Clearwater and Double-A Reading in the Phillies system. The 2006 first-rounder was traded last December in the Roy Halladay/Cliff Lee deal and made his debut for the Blue Jays on April 8 in a win over New Britain.
So far, he's living up to the hype in his second season in the Eastern League.
"It's a little different, especially when you play [the same players], but when I'm not playing, it's kind of the same," Drabek said. "It's still baseball, so you're gonna have fun no matter what."
Drabek said he's been working well with FisherCats catcher Brian Jeroloman, a former sixth-round pick who's batting .339.
"Jeroloman was calling a great game, I agreed with him 99 percent of the time," he added. "We just had that pitcher-catcher communication."
Drabek, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2007, said he's glad to be healthy and in control again. He's dominated since returning from the procedure and was among the Phillies' best prospects last season.
"A big [goal this year] was not getting injured," he said. "I felt great last season and was able to pitch to as long as I could and not get hurt. I just want to work a lot on all my pitches to get them consistent."