Red Sox: Pomeranz struggles in return from triceps tightness

Mar 14, 2017; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz (31) throws a pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 14, 2017; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz (31) throws a pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Boston Red Sox lefty Drew Pomeranz dealt with command issues, giving up 3 earned runs in the first two innings, but settled down as his start progressed.

Overall, Pomeranz’s day was not great. He gave up back to back doubles to Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Bautista in the first then threw a wild pitch that would have put Bautista on third were it not for a lucky bounce and great throw by Christian Vazquez. After a couple deep fly balls from Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin, he was out of the inning but only beginning his struggles.

In the second, he gave up a line-drive single to Kevin Pillar, RBI gap double to Devon Travis, and a RBI single to Tulo. He also sandwiched a walk, in-between the base hits, giving up a couple of earned runs in the inning. Those were all the runs he would allow, though, as he held the Jays off the board in the 3rd and 4th. He ended with a final line of four innings pitched, five hits, three earned runs, two walks and three strikeouts.

Pomeranz left his last start, on Sunday,  with triceps tightness in his left arm after giving up three earned in two innings pitched. With his health in question, today’s start was far from encouraging.

There are ten days until the start of the season, and the one thing the Red Sox are in desperate need of is a healthy rotation. Yeah, Rick Porcello and Chris Sale are perfectly healthy and elite hurlers, but when you go down the line each of the remaining pitchers carries individual question marks. Eduardo Rodriguez tweaked his knee again in the offseason and Steven Wright only resumed throwing a month ago, after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in September. They’re both healthy right now, but let’s not pretend that a setback to either isn’t something that we have to be wary of.

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By now, we all know that David Price isn’t expected to pitch until the end of April/beginning of May. If the top-4 are healthy and pitching well, no big deal, they can handle that loss. If not, well, the first month of the season might not be so fun.

All of which is why Pomeranz’s start today was pivotal to the makeup of the Red Sox rotation. He’s the only thing standing in the way of the club dipping into their pitching depth, which is currently highlighted by the 32-year old Kyle Kendrick who hasn’t thrown a major league pitch in two years.

For the record, I do think that Pomeranz is a talented pitcher. Whether you buy into advanced stats or not, his numbers in San Diego were for real. He compiled a 3.15 FIP and 3.61 xFIP as a Padre, meaning that he wasn’t just getting lucky or benefiting from a good defense. For all the traditionalists out there, his 2.47 ERA was pretty good too. However, he pitched a career-high 170.2 innings between San Diego and Boston and probably broke down as the season progressed explaining his struggles with the Red Sox.

But he hasn’t given the club anything to be excited about this spring. Prior to today’s start, he’s pitched just four innings and given up 5 earned runs, while striking out just one batter. The Red Sox desperately needed him to show them something today.

To be fair, he did start Spring Training on a delayed throwing program and has only had half the starts as Porcello, Sale and Rodriguez. That’s likely part of the reason why he struggled so much in this one.

Pomeranz sat in the low 90s with his fastball last season according to FanGraphs, topping out at 94 when starting. Sportsnet, the broadcaster of today’s game wasn’t displaying velocity, but Jason Mastrodonato was relaying the in-house radar information over Twitter.

So the velocity was there, but he struggled with command the first couple times through the order leading to hard contact. Of his 31 pitches, only 9 were balls but he left a number of fastballs over the heart of the plate early in the count. The Jays were able to jump on those and obviously take advantage of Pomeranz, knocking him around in the first two innings.

That he was able to settle down and find a rhythm in the third and fourth was encouraging, though. He retired six of the final seven batters he faced – including a strikeout to end his day. I hate to say that those two innings could inspire hope for his next outing, but he looked to regain his delivery halfway through the game and seems to think that he’ll be able to keep it going.

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Given the state of the team’s rotation, they need to look for any positive they can find. Whether he’s fully healthy or not, Pomeranz will be pitching for the Red Sox when the season starts. The real question now is whether he can build up enough arm strength to be productive when that time comes.