Coming back from his second Tommy John surgery, the first question off the mound for Kyle Drabek revolves around how he feels physically.
“The arm felt good the whole game, which I’m excited about,” the right-hander said.
But there are things he needs to work on. Like getting ahead of batters and keeping the ball down in the zone.
After three solid innings, Drabek ran into trouble in the fourth. He gave up the first three runs of the game as Lehigh Valley blanked the Buffalo Bisons, 7-0, at Coca-Cola Field on Sunday afternoon.
Drabek started the game with two strikeouts and a walk. He gave up his first hit in the second, but a double play negated that baserunner. There was a two-out double by Pete Orr in the third but the damage didn’t really come until the fourth.
Steve Susdorf and Cody Overbeck led off with back-to-back singles. Susdorf scored as Tyler Henson hit into a fielder’s choice. Henson then scored on a double down the third base line by Michael Martinez. A single by Castro scored Martinez.
Drabek gave up one more hit, a single to Steven Lerud, before leaving the game. Bobby Korecky struck out the next two batters to end the inning.
“In the fourth inning, I started getting kind of behind on guys, so I had to give them a pitch to hit,” Drabek said. “I thought they hit some pretty good pitches but I left some up as well.
“Getting behind in the count I think was my biggest enemy today, even at the start of the game. For me, strike one is a big thing. … There’s really no way of fixing it except I think in the beginning I was just rushing a little bit and then, just happened to get 2-0 counts on people. Then I have to give them something around the plate to either hit or hopefully for a strike.”
Drabek was on a pitch count as he makes his way back from a year on the disabled list with a torn right elbow ligament. This year he had six starts in Class-A Dunedin and two starts with Double-A New Hampshire before being promoted to the Bisons on Aug. 14.
He picked up a win in his first appearance – a relief outing against Rochester on Aug. 14. In his first start he was tagged with the loss, giving up two runs in four innings at Pawtucket.
He fell to 1-2 Sunday after giving up three runs on seven hits in 3∑ innings. He struck out two and walked one while two runners stole bases on him.
“There’s some things that he’s obviously going to have to clean up,” manager Marty Brown said. “He got a little bit predictable holding the ball. He can hold runners a little bit better and Kyle knows what he’s doing when he does that.”
Brown said Drabek didn’t help himself by falling behind batters.
“He really needs to concentrate on pitching ahead in the count,” he said.
Korecky gave up three runs in the seventh, including a two-run home run by Susdorf. Tommy Hottovy was tagged for a run in the ninth.
Susdorf went 3 for 5 for Lehigh Valley, driving in three runs.
IronPigs starter Raul Valdes (4-4) gave up five hits with two walks and two strikeouts.