Kyle Drabek knew just who to call when he was demoted from the Toronto Blue Jays to the minor-league Las Vegas 51s.
Former Cy Young Award-winner Doug Drabek - his father.
"He was telling me, 'You can't look at it as the worst thing in the world. Look at it as an opportunity to get better,"' Kyle said of his dad's advice.
Drabek will get his first shot to show that Sunday - Father's Day -when the 51s host their in-state rival, the Reno Aces.
"He's taught me pretty much everything I know," said Drabek. "So that's what I'm going to try to do, work as hard as I can to get back up there and be successful."
Pitching has been almost a constant in the life of the 23-year-old right-hander from Victoria, Texas.
After tearing up the Eastern League last season at double-A New Hampshire, Toronto's top pitching prospect bypassed triple-A Las Vegas and finished the year with three starts for the Blue Jays.
This season Drabek, a key player in the trade that sent Roy Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies in 2010, enjoyed a fast start for Toronto going 3-0 with a 3.30 earned-run average in his first five starts.
Then it all came crashing down.
Drabek went 2-5 from that point with an inflated 7.38 ERA. His 52 walks (against 48 strikeouts) were the most in the majors and his season ERA of 5.70 was the third worst. After a 14-1 bludgeoning by Boston last Sunday, the Blue Jays decided it was time to send him down to work on his control problems.
"I'm very frustrated right now," Drabek said at the time. "I couldn't tell you the last real quality game that I've had. It's frustrating walking people, giving up hits, not giving your team a chance to win."
Those comments threw up a caution flag to Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos.
"I think those comments were pretty telling that he was trying to find himself a little bit. It was a matter of, was he going to hope to do well or did he know he was going to do well," Anthopoulos told MLB.com.
"I think the first thing is getting back to throwing strikes. Also, to be able to handle himself and relax when things get tough. It's a combination of things, but I think more importantly than anything else, if he's throwing strikes and getting ahead he's going to do well."
Las Vegas pitching coach Tom Signore, who worked with Drabek in New Hampshire last year, said he would make a quick return to Toronto if Drabek's first bullpen sessions with the 51s were any indication.
"I don't expect him to be here long. He doesn't belong here. He belongs up in the big leagues," Signore said.
But the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League might not be the ideal place for a young pitcher to regain confidence. The presence of top-notched prospects, higher altitude and smaller parks could make things more challenging than life in the Eastern League, where Drabek tossed a no-hitter last year.
Drabek said he's discounting such factors and instead focusing on regaining the form that made him the 18th overall pick by the Phillies in the 2006 draft.
"There are some things I'm trying to refine in my game. I need to be able to throw more strikes," Drabek said after a throwing session on Thursday. "Early on I was getting ahead of hitters and being able to stay ahead. But in my last three or four starts, it just seemed like I'd get behind them, or if I was ahead I'd let them right back into the count. That's what got me in trouble, walking people.
"I want to make sure I can get ahead of batters and stay there."
But, of course, doing so at the Major League level, the level where his father pitched so effectively for 12 seasons.
"I wish I could have stayed up there," Drabek said. "But I played with most of these guys last year and I'm glad that I could come down here where I know a lot of people and can work with them. I'm going to try as hard as I can to get back to the Big Leagues."
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