Kyle Drabek returned to the major leagues tonight, and managed to finagle his way through 5.1 innings against the Red Sox. Even though he was less than stellar, he was good enough, and the Jays will gladly take the somewhat unexpected win. Mainly, Drabek showed a lot of progress over last season, when he seemed a complete bust, and renewed Jays' fans hope that he might become a permanent, productive member of the team long-term.
Only 24 years old, it was obviously too soon to write off a pitcher with as much talent as Drabek, but he looked atrocious in 2011. In his first MLB regular season start in 2012, he redeemed himself a little. I wasn't a huge fan of the pitch selection (again), and he threw too many balls, but the ball really appeared to explode out of his hand. His fastball looked good, and he brings a lot of heat with it. However, the 2-seam fastball was tailing off too much, and he struggled to hit the low-outside corner. Lefties seemed to struggle with it inside, which isn't common, and he shouldn't expect to be able to go back to the well with that one moving forward. Mind you, it also induced a couple of key strikeouts, so what do I know?
Typically, anytime you can hold the Red Sox to less than 2 runs through 5+ innings, you've done something right, but 3 walks in 5.1 innings is bad, even with 4 strikeouts.. Yes he left in line for the win, but that was partly due to his good luck (a big double play induced by Jason Frasor bailed him out of the 6th, countless balls found gloves, and the Jays turned in some nice defensive work) and bad luck for Daniel Bard (the Jays beat him with a bunch of grounder hits on balls that were less than squared up--Adam Lind's double was off a pitch that he appeared fooled on). Also, the line drive rate for Boston was 20%, and Drabek only got the Red Sox to hit 40% of their balls on the ground. You can expect more than a 3/18 hitting performance from opponents on that batted ball profile moving forward--Drabek needs to get more grounders or more strikeouts, or he's going to get lit up on a regular basis.
I really don't want to dwell on the negative, though. I should focus on how electric Drabek's stuff looked. He still needs to control it, but it moves, has late break, and the velocity is all-world. Drabek is still on the precipice, and could easily fall off again, but with further development harnessing his pitches, he could be a positive contributor to an above-average starting pitching rotation in the long-run.
Be prepared for some turbulence along the way, though.