Former UVA ace Andrew Abbott begins pro career

andrew abbott
Andrew Abbott. Photo courtesy UVA Athletics.

Andrew Abbott is a millionaire, sorta, kinda – OK, actually, not at all.

The former UVA ace lefty, you might have read, signed with the Cincinnati Reds, who had taken him in the second round of last month’s MLB Draft, and the deal included a $1.3 million signing bonus.

Naturally, I thought, I ought to ask him what splurge item or items he may have purchased with some of the bonus money.

Bad news.

“You get 100 grand up front, and then it’s split in half for the next two Julys. So really, I don’t get my full signing bonus until, I think it’s July 2023,” Abbott said.

Maybe that’s a good thing. That way, you don’t blow it all on a Bentley or a gold medallion, right?

Not that Abbott, a native of Halifax County, tends toward the showy anyway.

“You know, just being money smart. I don’t buy much of anything anyway, so I don’t really have to worry about it. I just kind of work with what I got. And then just be smart with it,” said Abbott, who had been expected to have been a draft pick in 2020, and would have been, had there not been a pandemic.

MLB decided to cut its draft to five rounds last year because of the pandemic, since teams wouldn’t have had anywhere to send the extra guys, with MiLB shut down for the summer.

Abbott, a top reliever to that stage of his career at UVA, didn’t have his name called in the 2020 draft, sending him back to Charlottesville for an unexpected senior season.

Coach Brian O’Connor gave Abbott the opportunity to move from the bullpen to the starting rotation, and the move worked out better than even the high expectations going in.

Abbott went 9-6 with a 2.87 ERA and a staggering 162 strikeouts in 106.2 innings in 2021, leading a staff that pitched the ‘Hoos to the College World Series in June.

Abbott admits to using the draft snub from last year as motivation to work harder and get better.

“Looking back at it, it definitely was a disappointment to not get drafted. Obviously, you know, that’s everybody’s dream. But as Coach Drew (Dickinson, UVA’s pitching coach) and Coach Oak told me, I think coming back was probably one of the best things that’s happened to me,” Abbott said. “Obviously getting a year starting under my belt, having another year to put on mature weight, to work with the coaches at UVA to get you prepared for some one of the best staffs in the nation, just preparing you for the next step, really.

“I used that as a chip on my shoulder this year,” Abbott said. “The main thing this year was to come out and make teams regret not drafting me. That was really the thing. It wasn’t the only thing driving me, but, you know, I had goals. I wanted to go to Omaha. I want to get back into postseason because, you know, when I committed to UVA, we had just won a national title in baseball, so it was like, OK, well, this is the pinnacle, this is where we want to be, so let’s get back to that.

“The first two and a half years there, we you know, we didn’t get out of the ACC Tournament. So, you know, getting back and putting UVA back on that like route, like, Hey, we’re going to get to the postseason, like, this is the standard for UVA baseball, was the primary goal. I was like, I’m going to do everything in my power to get us back there.”

Had he been drafted a year ago, it almost certainly would have been as a reliever, since that’s all MLB teams would have seen him do at the college level.

His year as a starter at UVA now has him projecting as a starter in the pro ranks. Abbott said the Reds are telling him that they see him as a starter at this point, and are getting him ready to launch beginning next spring training as a frontline guy.

So, maybe the extra year on Grounds paid off?

“I think I took a big stride,” Abbott said. “I learned a lot of stuff about starting, what I need to do and how to allocate, because relieving is a little bit different. You come in for like one or two innings, and you just give it all you’ve got starting. I’m going to pitch that deep in the ballgames, I want to go six, seven innings every time, I want to be consistent and give the team the best chance to win. Right off the bat, you don’t want a bad start, you want to start off good.

“Just kind of switching perspectives, really kind of just getting used to it, and then, hearing that the Reds have that confidence in me, that’s just going to take it and run with it. They’re behind me, and I’m definitely going to work hard and earn my spot.”

Abbott reported to the Reds’ spring training complex in Goodyear, Ariz., after signing. He’s basically in what you could call late summer training, rebuilding his arm strength to be able to make a start or two in the next couple of weeks, as the 2021 MiLB season winds down.

“They want me to throw another like 15, 20 innings or something like that this fall, whether it’s here, whether it’s somewhere else, just so next year I’m ready to go 140 innings-plus as a full-time starter at whatever affiliate I’m at,” Abbott said.

“Normally you’ll see, especially in my case, probably mid to late August, probably second or third week of August, you’ll see me either be shipped out, or I’ll be done throwing because I threw a lot this year. But since I’m throwing right now, I’m pretty confident that I’ll probably be sent out somewhere to play,” Abbott said.

He wakes up every day a pro baseball player. He might not have a lot of money in the bank, yet, but, still, he’s a pro.

“It’s a dream come true,” Abbott said. “It’s been what I wanted to do since I was 6, 7 years old. I’ve had multiple talks with my dad. I’ve had a lot of people in my life that have been in the professional baseball ranks, some of them have played in the majors. Just to have that recognition for the hard work, that just speaks to me and everyone that’s helped me get to where I’m at. It just shows what hard work and dedication can really do for somebody.”

Story by Chris Graham

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