Kyle Abbott Shows Patience Despite Bad Breaks, Losses : Baseball: Winless at the All-Star break, former Mission Viejo High pitcher tries to make adjustments with the Phillies.
Kyle Abbott couldn’t wait for tonight’s All-Star game.
Not that the Philadelphia Phillie rookie left-hander will play in it. Heck, he probably won’t even watch it on television or listen to it on the radio.
Nope. What Abbott wants out of this three-day break in the major league schedule is to catch a break himself, a brief respite from the miserable season he has endured thus far.
Abbott, once a top prospect in the Angels’ organization, is living a pitcher’s nightmare.
Through a weekend series against the Padres, the former Mission Viejo High School standout was 0-11 with a 5.15 earned-run average for the Phillies, who are last in the National League East.
That’s zilch, zero, nada victories, which could do a number on a young player’s mental health. But Abbott, 24, seems to be handling the situation like a veteran.
“I’m still positive,” Abbott said before his last start Saturday at Jack Murphy Stadium. “I’m happy with the fact that I’ve gone more than five innings in every start I’ve had. . . . The starts have been pretty quality. Except for a start or two when I haven’t done my job, the rest of the starts I’ve kept my team in the game as long as I could.”
He certainly did that in his two starts during Philadelphia’s recent West Coast trip. Yet all he had to show for it was another loss and a no-decision.
At San Francisco on July 6, he lost to the Giants, 4-2, despite giving up only two earned runs in six innings. A swirling wind in Candlestick Park possibly cost Abbott his first victory of the season.
Early in the game, Phillie first baseman John Kruk hit a drive to deep center field that the wind knocked down, and Cory Snyder caught it at the warning track. And catcher Darren Daulton hit a sixth-inning fly ball into the wind that Kevin Bass caught at the base of the fence in left.
“Even the weather was against him,” Phillie Manager Jim Fregosi said. “On most nights, both of those balls are out.”
Five days later in San Diego, Abbott allowed two earned runs and struck out seven in seven innings before giving way to a pinch-hitter in the eighth with the score tied, 2-2. Abbott struck out Padre first baseman Fred McGriff three times, but he couldn’t get past Tim Teufel. The second baseman tagged Abbott for two home runs, both on 3-and-1 fastballs.
The four runs the Phillies scored in those two games raised their support for Abbott to 13 runs during the time he has actually been in the game in 12 starts. They have not scored more than three runs in any of his losses and were shut out by the Cubs, 3-0, at Wrigley Field on June 26, Abbott’s ninth defeat of the season.
But the 6-foot-4, 195-pound Abbott says he can’t dwell on the lack of offensive support. “You can’t do anything about that,” Abbott said. “What it’s teaching me is how to pitch and once I get a lead to keep it. Every outing I take a lesson and apply it to my future in the game because I don’t think, by any stretch of the imagination, this is it for me.”
Neither do the Phillies, who acquired Abbott and outfielder Ruben Amaro from the Angels last December for Von Hayes. Some felt the trade was a steal for Philadelphia, particularly since Abbott had been a prized first-round pick by the Angels in 1989and had performed respectably in the minors. Fregosi, for one, still believes in Abbott.
“He’s got a nice arm,” Fregosi said. “He’s pitched some games he should have won. . . . He’s still going out there and busting his (butt).”
Among Abbott’s better performances were a 2-1 loss to San Francisco (May 2) and 3-2 losses to the Mets (April 25) and Pirates (April 10). The game against Pittsburgh was his first start of the year.
Fregosi, however, is toying with the idea of moving Abbott to the bullpen to take pressure off his pitcher. There could also be a return trip to the minors, but neither Fregosi nor Abbott believes that would accomplish much. Abbott was 0-7 when the Phillies sent him to their triple-A club at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in May, and he was recalled a month later after a 4-1 record with a 1.57 ERA in the minors.
“I don’t think that going down there would solve anything,” Abbott said. “It’s just a few things I have to work out at this level.”
Once, not long ago, Abbott hoped to ply his trade with the Angels. He signed with the club after his junior year at Cal State Long Beach, where he was 15-3 with a 2.73 ERA in 21 games and led the 49ers to the College World Series. Abbott had previously won 13 games in two seasons at UC San Diego and still holds the school’s career ERA record (1.94).
After turning pro, Abbott made stops at Class-A Quad City, double-A Midland and triple-A Edmonton, where in 1991 he was 14-10 with a 3.99 ERA. He debuted with the Angels at Anaheim Stadium last Sept. 10, losing to Texas, 6-1. Abbott also lost his next start, 9-2, to Chicago and finally picked up his first major league victory on Sept. 21 by beating the White Sox, 4-3, at Comiskey Park.
Then came the trade to Philadelphia that Abbott and his wife, Kathy, originally feared.
“At first we were disappointed,” Abbott said. “We had hoped to settle down a little bit in Southern California. But once we had a chance to think what the trade meant and the opportunities it presented, we got happier about it. Now we’re really happy to be in Philadelphia.”
And the normally unforgiving Phillie fans seem satisfied with Abbott, too. Or at least they’re willing to cut him some slack. Although Abbott is one defeat short of the club record for consecutive losses, set by Russ Miller in 1928 and tied by Hugh Mulcahy in 1940 and Ken Reynolds in 1972, Philadelphia fans have refrained from more than occasional jeers. No one appreciates it more than Abbott.
“The fans have been very patient with me,” he said. “I’ve heard a few boos when I give up runs in situations when I can’t afford to, but the fans know the game really well and I can’t complain about them at all.”
Abbott hopes to give those fans little reason to criticize him during the second half of the season. With any luck, and a few timely runs by his teammates, Abbott could rebound and not only gain that elusive first victory of the year, but a few others to boot. He would like to do it as a starter but knows it could well be as a reliever. Either way, Abbott is keeping a positive outlook.
“I’d like to remain a starter and keep going, but I can also understand Jim (Fregosi) might not want me to get into a situation where this (losing streak) keeps going and going,” Abbott said. “Johnny Podres (Philadelphia’s pitching coach) and Jim Fregosi have been great. They’ve had a lot of compliments for me still. They keep it very positive.
“I want to help anyway I can. If it’s in the bullpen, so be it. And I wouldn’t feel I could never be a starter again. This (losing) is a great lesson and you have to learn it at one point or another in your career. It’s been unfortunate that I’ve learned by failure.”
Kyle Abbott’s Long Season
Date Opponent Score IP H ER BB SO ERA* April 10 Pittsburgh 2-3 7 5 3 3 7 3.86 April 15 New York 2-7 6 6 5 4 1 5.54 April 20 Chicago 3-8 5 4 5 3 4 6.50 April 25 New York 2-3 7 7 3 1 5 5.76 May 2 San Francisco 1-2 7 7 2 2 4 5.06 May 8 San Diego ND 6 5 3 2 8 4.97 May 13 San Francisco 3-5 6 8 5 2 8 5.32 May 18 Houston 2-4 5 2/3 6 4 4 1 5.44 June 20 Chicago 2-5 5 2/3 8 4 2 1 5.53 June 26 Chicago 0-3 6 7 3 0 3 5.43 July 1 Montreal 3-6 6 7 5 2 2 5.61 July 6 San Francisco 2-4 6 6 2 1 2 5.40 July 11 San Diego ND 7 6 2 3 7 5.15 Totals 0-11 80 1/3 82 46 29 53 5.15
* Season-to-date earned-run average