Red Sox

Drellich: Pomeranz, league's second-best lefty, knows how to be even better

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Drellich: Pomeranz, league's second-best lefty, knows how to be even better

BOSTON — Drew Pomeranz may not actually be the No. 2 starter for the Red Sox in this year’s presumed American League Division Series. Maybe the Sox will mix in a right-hander between Pomeranz and Chris Sale.

Still, everyone knows which pitcher, in spirit, has been the second-most reliable for the Red Sox. A day after Chris Sale notched his 300th strikeout and on the final off-day of the regular season, it’s worth considering the importance of the other excellent lefty on the Sox, and how much he’s meant to a team that’s needed surprise performances because of the lineup’s drop-off.

Per FanGraphs’ wins above replacement, Pomeranz is the second-most valuable lefthanded starter among those qualified in the American League (you know who's No. 1). He's one of the 10 best starters in the AL overall.

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Pomeranz, 28, was a first-round pick seven years ago. But he didn’t exactly blossom until the last two years. He has a 3.15 ERA in 165 2/3 innings. His next start, if decent, should give him a career-high in innings after he threw 170 2/3 last year.

Pomeranz is a 16-game winner, just one win behind Sale. The value of wins and losses is known to be nil, but there’s still a picture of reliability that can be gleaned.

Is this the year Pomeranz became the pitcher he always envisioned he would be?

“I don’t know, I mean, I had a pretty dang good year last year,” Pomeranz said, referring to a 3.32 ERA between the Padres and Sox, and an All-Star selection. “I think these last two years have been kind of you know, more what I wanted to be like. But I still, I don’t think I’m done yet, you know what I mean?”

Most pro athletes say there’s always room to improve. Pomeranz, however, was able to specify what he wants. The focus is on his third and fourth pitches: his cutter and his change-up. 

“My changeup’s been really good this year,” Pomeranz said. “That’s something that still can go a lot further. And same with my cutter too. I still use it sparingly. I don’t think me just being a six-inning guy is the end of it for me either.

“You set personal goals. You want to throw more innings, cover more innings so the bullpen doesn’t have to cover those. Helps save them for right now during the year.”

Early in the year, Pomeranz wasn’t using his cutter much. He threw just nine in April, per BrooksBaseball.net. That led to talk that he wasn’t throwing the pitch to take it easy on his arm. He did start the year on the disabled list, after all, and cutters and sliders can be more stressful on the elbow and forearm.

That wasn’t the case.

“The reason I didn’t throw it in the beginning of the year was because half the times I threw it went the other way,” Pomeranz said. “It backed up. Instead of cutting, it was like sinking or running back. I mean, I pitched [in Baltimore] and gave up a home run to [Manny] Machado, we were trying to throw one in and it went back. So I didn’t trust it.

“Mechanical thing. I was still trying to clean my mechanics up, and once I cleaned ‘em up and got my arm slot right, then everything started moving the way it was supposed to and then I started throwing it more.”

Pomeranz’s cutter usage, and how he developed the pitch heading into 2016, has been well documented.

The change-up is more of an X-factor. He threw five in each of his last two starts, per Brooks, and it’s a pitch he wants to use more.

“It’s been good,” Pomeranz said. “I think I could throw it a lot more and a lot more effectively, and ... tweaking of pitch selection probably could help me get into some of those later innings too.”

Well, then why not just throw the change more often? Easier said than done when you’re talking about your fourth pitch in a key moment.

“I throw a few a game,” Pomeranz said. “Sometimes you feel like you don’t want too throw it in situations where you get beat with your third or fourth best pitch. I mean it’s felt — every time I’ve thrown it it’s been consistent. It’s just a matter of, it’s something me and Vazqy [Christian Vazquez] talk about, too." 

(When you hear these kind of issues, which most pitchers deal with, it makes you appreciate Sale’s ability to throw any pitch at any time even more.)

Speaking on Wednesday, the day after Pomeranz’s most recent outing, Sox pitching coach Carl Willis said he thinks the change-up’s already starting to have a greater presence.

“He’s kind of always had a changeup, and he hadn’t had any trust or conviction in that pitch,” Willis said. “I was really excited last night that he used the changeup more. He threw it. He doubled up with it on occasion. Something that’s not in the scouting report.

"It’s his fourth pitch and he seldom threw it in a game and he’s in a situation where, OK, the change-up’s the right pitch, but location of whatever I throw is going to outweigh [selection]. Now he’s starting to gain that confidence [that he can locate it]. 

“I think that’s going to make him an extremely better pitcher. I thought it was a huge factor in his outing last night. Because he didn’t have his best velocity. He really did a good job of changing speeds with the changeup, and obviously with the curveball and being able to give different shapes of the pitches.”

The Sox already have the best left-hander in the AL, if not anywhere. The AL's second-best southpaw happens to pitch on the same team, and has tangible plans to be even better.

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E-Rod may be sidelined six month because of surgery; Ramirez has minor procedure

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E-Rod may be sidelined six month because of surgery; Ramirez has minor procedure

BOSTON — Maybe now there's more reason to think Hanley Ramirez can have a rebound season in 2018. And left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will be recovering from knee surgery and likely miss the start of the season.  

Ramirez and Rodriguez each had surgery on Tuesday. Ramirez, the designated hitter and first baseman who turns 34 in December, had left shoulder surgery, an announcement he made on Twitter with a picture of himself at the hospital. 

Ramirez's surgery is considered relatively minor. Rodriguez's right knee ligament reconstruction surgery, however, has a recovery time of six months, which is to say he may be able to contribute to the Sox again in six months. But the timetable is imprecise, so, again, the Sox' starting pitching depth may have to be addressed in the offseason. 

Rodriguez, who turns 25 in April, has had been bothered by the right knee for most of the past two seasons. He missed about six weeks this season after dislocating his knee and missed the start of the 2016 season after injuring the knee in spring training.  Rodriguez was 6-7 with a 4.19 ERA last season and is 19-20, 4.23 in 25 career appearances, 24 starts in three seasons for Boston. 

Here's what the Red Sox said in a release about the two surgeries:

HANLEY RAMIREZ AND EDUARDO RODRIGUEZ UNDERGO SUCCESSFUL SURGERIES

BOSTON, MA – First baseman/designated hitter Hanley Ramirez and left-handed pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez underwent successful surgeries today.

Ramirez underwent a left shoulder arthroscopy and debridement. The procedure was performed by Dr. James Andrews at the Andrews Institute in Pensacola, FL. Ramirez is expected to be ready for the 2018 season.

Rodriguez underwent a right knee patellofemoral ligament reconstruction. The procedure was also performed by Dr. Andrews at the Andrews Institute in Pensacola. Rodriguez is expected to return to pitching in approximately six months.

 

Ramirez was bothered by both shoulders in 2017, limiting his performance at the plate and also his time at first base. He had a .750 OPS in the regular season after posting an .866 figure a year earlier. He was productive in the Sox' Division Series loss to the Astros, going 8-for-14.

Padres to interview Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis for open position

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Padres to interview Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis for open position

BOSTON -- The coaching migration could begin soon.

Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis is to be in San Diego on Wednesday, a baseball source told NBC Sports Boston. They have an open hitting coach position that Davis will interview for. Davis' reputation in the game remains excellent, despite some offensive drop-offs for key Sox players in 2017.

Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said all the Sox coaches under John Farrell have permission to seek jobs elsewhere.

"I’ve  talked to all the coaching staff members," Dombrowski said last week. "They’re all signed  for 2018. What I told them  is, first  of all, I think very highly of  them. They’re good people. They’re good baseball people. I would recommend  to our new manager any of them, it’s not a problem for me, but I do believe a new manager needs to have his own coaching staff in place within approval of us and making sure that there’s proper areas coached within the club. 

"Would grant permission for any club to talk to our personnel. I know they’re signed, but I wouldn’t want to stand in their way of getting a job somewhere else if that opportunity came up. Some of them could come back, but again, I’m going to wait until we get a manager and I won’t  stand in their way of interviewing elsewhere." 

Davis could eventually land on the interview circuit for manager, as well.