Red Sox can’t give up on struggling starter Drew Pomeranz

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 08: Drew Pomeranz #31 of the Boston Red Sox bites on his nail during the second inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on May 8, 2018 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 08: Drew Pomeranz #31 of the Boston Red Sox bites on his nail during the second inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on May 8, 2018 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

It has been a rough start to the 2018 season for Drew Pomeranz but the Boston Red Sox need to stick with him in the starting rotation.

This isn’t what Drew Pomeranz wanted to happen in a contract year. The lefty is off to a miserable start to the season that has many questioning his place in the rotation. As poorly as he has pitched so far, the Boston Red Sox can’t give up on Pomeranz.

Friday night’s loss to the Baltimore Orioles was ugly. Pomeranz lasted a mere four innings for the second consecutive start. He allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits and two walks.

Pomeranz didn’t pitch well by any means but he wasn’t quite as bad as this line suggests. If Christian Vazquez fields a one-hop throw from Andrew Benintendi cleanly they would have had Danny Valencia out at the plate to end the fourth inning. The run scored and Manny Machado followed with a base hit to knock in two more.

Instead of escaping a jam with only two runs on the board and surviving to pitch at least one more frame, Pomeranz’ night was over with the O’s tagging him for five runs.

Working his way out of trouble became the theme of the night for Pomeranz. He left a pair of runners stranded in scoring position in two of the first three innings. Only one run scored against him through those first few innings but it led to a rapidly rising pitch count. Pomeranz was at 81 pitches after four innings so he wasn’t lasting much longer even if his defense hadn’t let him down in the fourth.

Through six starts, Pomeranz is now 1-2 with a 5.97 ERA. Only four qualified American League starters own a higher ERA this season and his 1.78 WHIP would be dead last if Pomeranz had enough innings under his belt to qualify.

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That lack of production may not warrant a spot in the rotation. Not with Steven Wright showing he can be a capable replacement. Hector Velazquez has been great when given the chance, offering another alternative once he returns from a mild back strain. Enticing prospect Jalen Beeks is tearing it up for Triple-A Pawtucket and offers the most upside of the available pitching depth.

Boston has alternatives if Pomeranz falters but we’re not there yet. Keep in mind he got off to a similar slow start last year. Through his first seven starts in 2017, Pomeranz owned a 5.29 ERA. He lost consecutive games, lasting four innings or fewer in each, to that point in the season.

He wouldn’t turn things around until late-May when he won consecutive starts for the first time that season. Pomeranz went on to post a 3.00 ERA in June and saw that ERA gradually decline in each of the next two months. He would finish 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA.

The Red Sox would have been deprived of their second best pitcher last year if they gave up on Pomeranz after only six starts. There’s plenty of time for him to turn things around.

Getting back on track will require Pomeranz to regain control of his curveball. It’s been his best pitch throughout his career but lately it’s not fooling anyone. It seems he knows this, as Pomeranz attacked the O’s with his curveball relentlessly.

He threw the pitch a season-high 45.7% of the time against Baltimore. Almost everything else was a four-seam fastball. He mixed in a few cutters but completely abandoned the changeup he’s toyed with this year. He was essentially a two-pitch pitcher in this outing. That’s not going to get it done for a starter.

It’s as if Pomeranz believed that his chances of regaining his form with the curve would increase the more he threw the pitch. It clearly didn’t work this time out but if he learned anything from trying that could lead to fixing the mechanical issue that has taken his once devastating curve away from him then it will be worth it in the long run.

Maybe the fingernail issue that popped up during the series in New York is still hindering his ability to grip the curve. He may simply be shaking off the rust from a spring interrupted by a strained forearm. It could be that it only takes a simple tweak to his mechanics. He told reporters after the game that he thinks he found something on video from Friday’s start that he can fix. Sometimes a small adjustment can lead to a big change in results.

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Whatever is plaguing Pomeranz is still correctable. The Red Sox have to give him more time to work through it because he’s too valuable to this rotation when he’s pitching to his potential. There will come a point where they have to make a move if Pomeranz still can’t figure it out but we’re not there yet. He can still turn his season around just like he did last year.