Kason Gabbard earned his first start of the season for the Boston Red Sox today against the Sox's "natural rivals," the Atlanta Braves. Gabbard, filling in a gap in the rotation, was impressive by going 5 innings, striking out 7, allowing 6 hits, one walk and just two runs.
Gabbard featured three plus pitches this afternoon. His bread and butter was his 11-5 curveball that clocked in around 75 MPH with a huge break that fooled some of the best hitters in the game, including Andruw Jones and Chipper Jones. Gabbard showed confidence in his curveball, throwing it on almost every count.
A solid pitch for Gabbard today was his three-finger changeup that danced around the 80 MPH mark all day long. Unlike some young pitchers, he showed confidence throwing it in any counts necessary. Some rookie pitchers find it necessary to rely on their fastball and forget about their secondary pitches, but since Gabbard's fastball isn't overpowering he used the changeup to his advantage. Gabbard was never really hit hard in the first place, but he never left the pitches that got the outs: his change and curve.
His fastball, which seemed to have some sink on it, was in the 87-89 MPH range. Nothing dominate, but a good enough change of pace that fooled hitters who were looking for his curve or changeup. He wasn't painting the corners with his fastballl, but he never missed by much.
Gabbard finished the game with 100 pitches, 61 of them being strikes. Of his 15 outs he compiled, 7 were from strikeouts, 5 from ground-outs and just 3 were fly-outs. Only one of the 6 hits were for extra-bases, a double by red-hot Jeff Francoeur.
In my personal opinion, Gabbard was really fun to watch today. He seemed to have great command of all his pitches and mixed them up very well. Jason Varitek has to earn a nod for his work today behind the plate, also. What impressed me the most was how he threw his curveball and changeup whenever he wanted to. Once there was a hit or two, he didn't back down and he continued to go with what worked.
Gabbard was optioned back to Pawtucket, but I'm sure this won't be the last time we see Gabbard this season. The next time the Sox need a spot-starter, don't be surprised to see Gabbard pop up before anyone else. If Jon Lester continues to be set back and Julian Tavarez struggles, Gabbard could work his way into a job.