Red Sox starter Drew Pomeranz struggling to regain his form on the mound
By Sean Penney
The struggles of left-handed pitcher Drew Pomeranz continued as he faltered in his second start of the season against the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Boston Red Sox were thrilled to have their starting rotation intact before the end of April. As it turns out, they would have been better off giving Drew Pomeranz a bit more time to recover.
It’s clear something isn’t right with Pomeranz after he was shelled for the second time in as many starts. This time it was the Tampa Bay Rays knocking him around for four runs on six hits and a pair of walks over five innings.
That ugly outing is still an improvement over his season debut in Oakland last week. Through two starts, Pomeranz is 0-1 with a 7.7 ERA and 1.73 WHIP. He looks nothing like the pitcher who was the second best option in the Red Sox rotation last season.
The most noticeable difference has been a dip in velocity. Pomeranz averaged 91.7 mph with his fastball last season, per fangraphs. He’s averaged only 89.3 mph in each of his two starts this year.
The Rays jumped on Pomeranz early when Wilson Ramos blasted an 87 mph fastball over the Green Monster in left field for a two-run homer. Rob Refsnyder took him deep on an 88 mph fastball to lead off the third. Pomeranz wouldn’t hit 90 mph on the radar gun until later that inning, on his 34th pitch of the game.
Pomeranz posted a 0.98 HR/9 rate last season, ranking a tick better than Chris Sale‘s 1.01 HR/9. Only a handful of qualified American League starters owned a lower home run rate last season, so he’s not exactly homer prone. Big league hitters are going to crush it a mile when you serve them batting practice fastballs so his diminished velocity has been an issue for Pomeranz.
Control of his breaking ball has been the other problem for Pomeranz. His curveball is a devastating weapon in his arsenal, one which he utilized on 36.9 percent of his pitches last year. This year he’s throwing the curve only 25.4 percent of the time. Pomeranz threw 41 breaking balls against the Rays and generated only two swings-and-misses. He’s not fooling anyone with his curve, forcing him to abandon the pitch.
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Pomeranz switched to using a changeup, a pitch he didn’t throw at all in his first start and only 1.5 percent of the time last season. Daniel Robertson‘s fourth inning homer came against a changeup so it appears that option wasn’t working well for the pitcher either.
It’s unclear if these issues are physical or mechanical. Pomeranz missed most of spring training with left forearm tightness that delayed his season debut until April 20. Is the forearm still bother him or is Pomeranz still shaking off the rust?
Even if he’s healthy, Pomeranz needs to make adjustments before he can help this team. The Red Sox may be better off with Hector Velazquez, who tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings after Pomeranz was knocked out. Pairing Velazquez and Brian Johnson together for a few innings each would be better than this version of Pomeranz plodding through a handful of frames before getting the hook.
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Pomeranz has a much higher ceiling than either of those spot starters. We know what he’s capable of and the Red Sox are going to need him to contend for a championship. As long as it’s the 2017 version that they are getting. The pitcher who can barely crack 90 mph and can’t get anyone to chase his curve – that pitcher is of no use to this team.