It's not easy stepping into a doctor's shoes, something pitching prospect Kyle Drabek is finding out the hard way.
Acquired by the Toronto Blue Jays in a deal that sent former ace Roy (Doc) Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009, he has so far struggled to find the surgical precision made famous by his predecessor.
In 14 games with the Jays this season, the 23-year-old Drabek's earned-run average stands at an inflated 5.70 with more walks (52) than strikeouts (48), leading to his demotion to the AAA Las Vegas 51s in June to work out the kinks in his delivery.
'I think he tended to rely on the cutter way too much at the major league level.'— Blue Jays assistant GM Tony LaCava on pitcher Kyle Drabek
Jays assistant general manager Tony LaCava believes the best way for the Texas native to improve is addition by subtraction.
"There are no new pitches [for Drabek]," LaCava said in a phone interview with CBCSports.ca. "In fact, we've taken away his [cut fastball]. It's something he'll bring back when the time's right, but now we're trying to get him to focus on commanding his fastball and throwing strikes and repeating his delivery."
His delivery is something the Jays feel will come in time and needs more repetition. Las Vegas manager Marty Brown and his staff have been working with Drabek on consistency and getting him used to the change in mechanics minus his favourite pitch.
"Kyle's delivery was a little out of whack when he came down [to Las Vegas]," Brown said, "And he's really been concentrating on keeping his delivery consistent, and I think he tended to rely on the cutter way too much at the major league level. So that being said, to take that away and make him rely on command of his fastball, using his curveball for strikes, I think it's a learning thing for him."
Besides learning baseball mechanics, proper arm motions and situational pitching in the minor leagues, Drabek is maturing as a player.
"He's young, he's got a great arm," said Brown, "A kind of a maximum-effort type of pitcher that if he gets into a bit of a jam in a certain inning his mindset is to grab more, to throw harder.
"With that, sometimes he loses himself and gets out of his delivery and loses his command, and now he's in more trouble, so it's kind of about him learning about himself. [Knowing] what is his 100 per cent for any given day, and understanding that we don't need 110 or 115 per cent, because that's not something that's going to keep him consistent."
LaCava praises the former first-round pick for the intensity he displays, both on and off the mound.
"[His work ethic] is tremendous," said the former Los Angeles Angels scout. "He's such a competitor and an extremely hard worker. There are no issues there at all. He's as intense a guy as I think I've ever met."
As of Aug. 16, the youngster has made 10 starts for Las Vegas and sports a 3-2 record with a less-than-spectacular 6.55 ERA and 2.00 WHIP.
But it's all part of the maturation process.