Pomeranz gets well with healthy dose of success
Rockies left-hander shakes off illness with fine outing in Classic exhibition
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- After several days of being under wraps and under the weather, left-hander Drew Pomeranz gave Rockies fans a gift on Wednesday night.
Pomeranz went just 2 2/3 innings and gave up a run, three hits and two walks in a World Baseball Classic exhibition game against Team USA at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. He worked against a star-studded lineup after having been out of game action for six days, partly to work on mechanics and partly because he was sick.
More than the numbers, it was the way Pomeranz kept steady and made adjustments on the fly against a higher-level lineup than he would face in a normal Cactus League game. For Pomeranz, the good pitches -- like a third-strike curve to Ryan Braun -- were shades of 2011, when he was lighting up Spring Training for the Indians. It was his first pro experience after being selected in the first round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.
"Being so early, third time out, it felt good," Pomeranz said. "That's what I struggled with in years past, trying to find the right delivery and the right feeling. I definitely felt that feeling, that I had the delivery that I'm supposed to have, that I had a few years ago when I felt real good.
"I'm excited that I feel that way. It's hard to explain, because it's all up in my head. It's a feeling."
It's early in a lengthy Spring Training, but Colorado will take good pitching news. Jeff Francis has not given up a run in three outings, spanning nine innings, but Jhoulys Chacin (currently with Team Venezuela in the Classic), Jorge De La Rosa and Juan Nicasio each have had trouble spotting pitches.
The delivery that enticed the Rockies to seek out Pomeranz as the key to the deal that sent one-time ace Ubaldo Jimenez to the Indians has been missing most of the time that Pomeranz has worn purple pinstripes. Last year, injuries forced Colorado to keep Pomeranz in its rotation for much of the season. Trying to survive more than thrive, he finished 2-9 with a 4.93 ERA in 22 starts.
With a new training program and a dedication to erasing last year, Pomeranz, 24, arrived at camp feeling more like himself. Still, the consistency was more almost there than actually there during his first two Cactus League outings. After the extra work between starts, Tuesday brought him closer to where he needs to be, with plenty of time to complete the journey before the regular season begins.
"He's got the ability to make a big leap forward. He's one of those guys that can really pop and be a big-time guy," manager Walt Weiss said. "He's got that kind of ability. He's got to be in good counts, like we've been talking about, and all of those things. But as far as the arm and the stuff, the deception, he's got a chance to pop."
Team USA forced Pomeranz into a high pitch count. If he can get ahead and become more efficient at putting away at-bats, the future could be right. Pomeranz flashed that efficiency on July 6, 2012, when he held the Nationals to one run while throwing 83 pitches in 6 1/3 innings of a 5-1 road victory. He opposed Nats young star pitcher Stephen Strasburg. Only the Rockies' unorthodox attention to limiting pitch counts prevented Pomeranz from going deeper.
"For the most part, I've found the delivery that I need to have," said Pomeranz, who was still sniffling [Wednesday], but was feeling good enough to pitch. "It's only my third time out in the spring. It's still real early. Obviously, I'd have liked to have thrown fewer pitches and been more consistent with it, but I'm glad that I know where it's at. I know what needs to happen. I can't say the same for years past."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.