Drew Pomeranz will take the hill tonight for the Red Sox vs. the Oakland Athletics for the first time in 2018. He’s returning from a mild forearm strain that he suffered in his first Spring Training appearance down in Ft. Myers, Florida this year, an injury which he sustained in 2017, as well.
Pomeranz made 2 appearances in the minor leagues during his rehab assignment (1 with Portland and 1 with Pawtucket). He fared decently in those starts, allowing just 6 hits with 5 K’s in 9.2 IP. He struggled with his command, though, giving 9 free passes and allowing 2 home runs.
There’s 4 key things to look for in his outing vs. Oakland.
1: Fastball Velocity
Pomeranz’s fastball has averaged 91 mph over his career. When coming back from a throwing arm injury, it’s important for the pitcher to be able to get his fastball up in the neighborhood of that average velocity quickly. It doesn’t always happen right away in the 1st start or 2, as they’re often still “stretching” that arm out, but somewhere around 90 mph on his fastball tonight should be the benchmark.
(Photo credit: SI)
Pomeranz is not a power pitcher, far from it, actually. He relies on location and deception of his pitches to be effective. It’s important for him to spot his fastball on the corners tonight, as well as effectively throw his secondary pitches with both artifice and direction. Can he locate his fastball? Can he throw his curveball with a tight track both in and out of the zone? These are 2 questions that Alex Cora and co. will be looking to answer tonight.
3: Pitch Selection
Pomeranz has been a 2-pitch pitcher for most of his career, but in 2016 he developed and began throwing a cutter. He doesn’t throw it often (only about 9% of the time), but it’s a nice tool to have in his arsenal. So, tonight and going forward, look to see if he feels comfortable and healthy enough to occasionally mix that cutter in.
4: Mental Fortitude
Since he’s coming off of a sub-par rehab assignment, Pomeranz’s confidence may not be sky high going into this game. If he does happen to find himself in a jam, maybe with RISP and only 1 out, it will be interesting to see how he responds and whether he’ll have the focus and mental toughness to work his way out of it.
There’s no mistaking that Pomeranz could be a valued asset to this rotation. After all, he did tie with Chris Sale for a team high 17 wins last year. But the Red Sox starting pitching is ridiculously deep right now, with the likes of Eduardo Rodriguez, Hector Velazquez and Brian Johnson all suitable candidates for the #5 spot in the rotation. So, coming off of injury, it’s important for Pomeranz to show the Boston coaching staff that he still has the stuff that warrants a spot on this team. Tune in tonight.