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Drabek shows potential in Futures Game

Drabek shows potential in Futures Game

ST. LOUIS -- This feels like just another step toward stardom for Kyle Drabek.

He has been a high school star and a first-round Draft pick. He has shouldered the expectations of being the son of a former Cy Young Award winner. He had Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery in July 2007 only to return better than before getting hurt.

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And Sunday, he found himself at Busch Stadium for the XM All-Star Futures Game to play against some of the best prospects in the game. He threw a perfect second inning, getting a groundout, strikeout and flyout.

"I can't complain at all," he said, smiling. "It's pretty amazing."

Drabek, 21, started this year in Class A Clearwater, where he earned a quick promotion after he went 4-1 with a 2.48 ERA after just 10 appearances (nine starts). His transition to Double-A Reading has been smooth. He is 5-0 with a 2.70 ERA in seven appearances (six starts).

The Phillies love him.

So does everybody else. Baseball America considers Drabek the 24th best prospect in the country -- one of three Phillies in the top 25 and four in the top 50. (Class A Clearwater outfielder Dominic Brown is 17th, Double-A outfielder Michael Taylor is 23rd and Class A Lakewood right-hander Jason Knapp is in the top 50.)

Drabek is so admired that his name has been mentioned regularly in trade scenarios since the Blue Jays announced Roy Halladay is available. The Phillies have a short list of prospects they have said publicly are untouchable, and Drabek is believed to be atop that list.

Whether or not that holds true remains to be seen.

"The players like to joke about it," Drabek said of the recent trade talks. "They'll say, 'We'll see you in New Hampshire (Toronto's Double-A affiliate) next week.' Stuff like that. I try not to think about it too much. I try to put it in the back of my mind. I'm really just trying to go out there and compete, so I'll have a chance to be called up sometime.

"It's great that [the Phillies] like me. I definitely don't want to get traded. I love the Phillies organization. I've been hearing a lot about the fans and I want to meet them."

They want to meet him, too. Some Phillies fans think he deserves a shot to pitch in the big leagues this year, although Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said recently that Drabek is not an option in 2009.

The Phillies want Drabek to pitch a full season in the Minors before they bring him up.

"I haven't had a full season yet," Drabek said. "If they would call me up, I think I'm ready. My arm feels great. It gets better every day. I really can't complain about that. I think my fastball command has gotten a lot better since the beginning of the season. My changeup is still on its way. I'm still trying to figure a few things out, but it's a lot better than it used to be."

But it is not crazy to think that Drabek could be competing for a spot in the rotation next season. He is that good.

The last Phillies pitching prospect to climb the ladder with this much hype was Cole Hamels. Phillies fans would be thrilled to have Hamels and Drabek atop their rotation.

Drabek would love to see it, too.

"They want to win," Drabek said of Phillies fans. "I'm a competitor and I want to win, too. It's a good match."

Double-A Reading left-hander Yohan Flande, who pitched for the World team, allowed two hits and struck out two in the bottom of the second inning.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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