Blue Jays demote struggling Drabek to AAA

Struggling Toronto Blue Jays rookie pitcher Kyle Drabek was optioned to AAA Las Vegas on Tuesday, while fellow right-hander Zach Stewart was promoted from AA New Hampshire.

Top prospect gives way to fellow right-hander Zach Stewart

It's one prospect down, another up for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Struggling pitcher Kyle Drabek on Tuesday was optioned to AAA Las Vegas, making room for the promotion of fellow right-hander Zach Stewart, who was part of the Scott Rolen trade last summer.

The 23-year-old Drabek was roughed up for a third consecutive start in Sunday's 14-1 loss to the American League East Division-leading Boston Red Sox.

He lasted just four-plus innings and was touched for eight runs (all earned) on seven hits, including three home runs. He struck out five but threw two wild pitches —bringing his season total to nine — and walked four.

Drabek departs for the minors with more free passes (52) than strikeouts (48) in 72 2/3 innings pitched this season.

In 14 starts, he has a 4-5 record and 5.70 earned-run average.

"[Blue Jays manager] John [Farrell] and I got together and spent a lot of time on Monday just going through the roster, going through the team, just getting caught up really," Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos told the Canadian Press before Tuesday's game against the Orioles.

"He was a bit disappointed but he understood at the same time," Anthopoulos said. "He has never failed before. He's been a high draft pick. He's rolled through the minor leagues. Going through the minors leagues, he's done well everywhere he's been. He's never been hit like this before."

Stewart, 24, is among the Blue Jays' top 10 prospects. He went 4-3 with a 4.39 ERA this season with the AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats, but has been strong of late with a 1-0 mark and 2.37 ERA in his three most-recent starts.

The native of Wichita Falls, Tex., was acquired from Cincinnati prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline a year ago along with third baseman/first baseman/designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion and fellow pitcher Josh Roenicke, whom Toronto lost to Colorado recently on waivers.

The departure of Roenicke opened up a spot on the Jays' 40-man roster.

Last season, the six-foot-two Stewart was 8-3 with a 3.63 ERA (eighth in the Eastern League) in 26 starts with New Hampshire, forming a nice 1-2 punch with Drabek.

Stewart's fastball-slider combination had many thinking he would develop into a major league closer, but an improved change-up appears to have changed the thinking of Jays management.

"Zach was very close to a call-up last year and he's done everything we've asked him to do," Anthopoulos said. "He hasn't been up here before and his last three starts with New Hampshire he's pitched well.

"Just being down there and speaking to the staff there they feel he deserves an opportunity. It's really a good time to give him a shot, to give him a look and see how he does."

With files from the Canadian Press