READING - There was no need for Kyle Drabek to explain how he felt after the top pitching prospect in the Phillies' organization made his double-A debut last night for Reading.
As Drabek stood in front of his locker at FirstEnergy Stadium, his smile practically illuminated the home team's clubhouse. That said it all.
"Awesome," the 21-year-old righthander said. "I didn't come here and expect to do that. I felt good."
With Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and special assistant Dallas Green sitting behind home plate and closely monitoring him, Drabek pitched seven scoreless innings against Akron, holding the Aeros to three hits while striking out four and walking three in Reading's 6-1 win.
No sooner had Drabek finished his chores than he received a text message from his father, Doug Drabek, the 1990 NL Cy Young Award winner and a veteran of 13 big-league seasons.
"I already got a text from him saying he was happy for me," Kyle said.
Working quickly and using a compact delivery reminiscent of Tom Seaver, the 6-foot, 208-pound Drabek threw 97 pitches - 57 for strikes. He relied heavily on a fastball that topped out at 99 m.p.h. in the first inning but was most frequently in the low-to-mid-90s.
Drabek, a first-round pick by the Phillies in 2006, struck out the first two batters he faced. He got his last two strikeouts in his final inning. After shedding pregame nerves, he had better command of his curve as the game progressed.
"I tried to keep the ball down at the beginning," he said. "During the game, I started to get it up a little bit, but it was good to have the team out there behind me for the hard-hit balls. The change-up wasn't really there. I think I got most of my outs on fastballs."
Drabek was 4-1 with a 2.48 ERA in 10 games, including nine starts, before he was promoted from single-A Clearwater of the Florida State League. In his last outing with Clearwater on Friday, he pitched a five-hit shutout over Charlotte.
Reading manager Steve Roadcap worked with Drabek at lower-single-A Lakewood two years ago before the pitcher was sidelined by an elbow injury that required reconstructive surgery. Roadcap said the jump from high-single-A to double A was the biggest in the minors.
Drabek said he noticed the difference in the caliber of hitters.
"They hit some pitches they weren't hitting down in high-A," he said.
Drabek said he had set no timetable to make it to the majors, but there was little doubt the Phillies hoped he accelerated the process.
"I'm just trying to take it a day at a time. I'm not really thinking about that at all," he said.
"He just has to focus on getting experience at this level," Reading pitching coach Steve Schrenk said before the game. "I think he proved he could pitch at the level he was just at, and it's time for a new challenge.
"That's the biggest thing - for him to step up to the challenge. He definitely has the stuff to do it. Our job is to get him to the big leagues and get him to do the things he needs to get there."