Since then, Drabek's attitude has cleared greatly and while the chip on his shoulder is gone, it was his elbow that became a problem. Tommy John surgery had fans wondering if Drabek would ever be the same pitcher.
With a late-season return to the mound last season, Drabek seemed to put aside concerns about his health. He pitched in eight minor league games last season - four in the Gulf Coast League and four with Williamsport - and fashioned a 2.23 ERA between the two stops. His control was a little off and his velocity wasn't where it had been before the surgery, but those issues were expected. It wasn't until after the season that everything seemed to click.
Drabek pitched in the Hawaii Winter Baseball League and was his old self, striking out 19 hitters in 20 2/3 innings while walking just four. His velocity was returning, the movement on his pitches was there and everybody was pumped to see Kyle Drabek in 2009.
As he started the year at Clearwater, the rumors of Drabek potentially reaching the majors by late in the season started to rumble. Drabek was impressive at Clearwater, but threw a gem to close out May that convinced everybody that a trip to Double-A Reading was in order. In a start against Charlotte, Drabek threw a complete game shutout and was immediately dispatched to Reading, where he started with ten shutout innings of work over two games.
By the beginning of July, it looked like Drabek would move to Triple-A, but the move never came. For a while, it was feared that the Phillies might jettison him to Toronto in a deal for Roy Halladay, but when the Blue Jays wanted too many other pieces in addition to Drabek, the deal fell apart. It was assumed that after the trade deadline, Drabek would hit Triple-A, especially since the IronPigs needed starters.
Not so fast. The call didn't come and it's likely not going to come this season. It's not because of anything that Drabek did or didn't do, it's because it's what the Phillies feel is best for their prize right-hander.
"We've asked a lot from him [Drabek] this year and where he is, is where he would have been if he didn't get hurt," explained Phillies minor league director Steve Noworyta.
It also doesn't hurt to leave him at Reading, because it's likely that he'll get to pitch in the Eastern League Playoffs. Reading currently has a 2.5 game lead over Erie and 3.5 over Bowie for the final spot in the post-season. Drabek will be pitching in pressure situations to get Reading to the playoffs and then pitching in post-season ball into September.
"I think we're just going to see how it plays out, but where he's at right now is right where we want him to be," said Noworyta.
One potential scenario would be for Reading to go deep into the Eastern League Playoffs and have the Phillies clinch the division right about the same time that Drabek's post-season would end and the Phillies could conceivably bring him to the majors to get a start or two to close out the season.
Had the Phillies not been able to pull off the Cliff Lee deal, it would have been interesting to see if their approach to Drabek would have changed. If that deal doesn't go down, perhaps Drabek is moved to Triple-A right after the deadline and waits in the wings if the Phillies were to decide that they needed him to help out down the stretch. As exciting as that scenario would have been, the slow and easy approach could be the better way for the Phillies to handle Drabek. After all, he could have been pitching for Toronto by now had things not played out as they did.