BOSTON -- Sandy Leon’s proving some doubters wrong, but he’s not exactly coming out of nowhere. And everyone figured Pablo Sandoval could at least be useful.
That leaves Drew Pomeranz’s start Tuesday night as the biggest surprise the Red Sox have had yet, all of seven games into their season.
Pomeranz was talked about like a lemon leading into the lefty’s 6-plus innings against the Orioles at Fenway Park. A car salesman's trickery, stuck on the Fenway Park lot.
Play a word association game with Red Sox fans and Pomeranz, and the result is probably “rescind.” As in, send him back to San Diego, because we don’t want him.
Maybe folks will be more open-minded after Pomeranz fanned six in an 8-1 win over the Orioles.
The one earned run Pomeranz was tagged with scored after he left the game. A Chris Davis leadoff single in the seventh was Pomeranz’s final act. His best act was escaping a one-out, two-in-scoring-position jam in the the second.
Tuesday night was Pomeranz’s first career win at Fenway Park, and arguably his best outing since joining the team.
He gave up just four hits and walked one on 91 pitches, 55 strikes. The velocity hovered at 92 mph and crept up near 95 mph at its highest point.
“I felt like I waited forever to get that first start in,” Pomeranz said. “I think I haven't thrown off the mound in eight or nine days something like that. So I tried to do everything I could to stay ready and stay ready for this day. I've been working hard and things clicked in warmups today and I felt really good out there. I took that to the mound and I tried to throw out there for as long as I could.”
Pomeranz’s longest outing for the Sox last year was 7 2/3 innings, and he struck out 11 batters on another occasion. Both games were in August, when he had a 2.70 ERA.
But the year didn’t end well, with a 4.68 ERA in 13 starts with the Sox overall. Pomeranz never got past five innings in September, when he eventually slid into the bullpen — a far cry from the 2.47 ERA he had at the All-Star break, when he was, in fact, an All-Star.
Anderson Espinoza, the young pitching prospect the Red Sox traded to the Padres for Pomeranz in a one-for-one deal, had slowly become a symbol of perceived ineptitude. The Sox could have undone the trade for Pomeranz last year when they discovered his medical condition was not as advertised, but chose not to.
Never mind that Espinoza is starting the season on the disabled list, and still years away from potential big league impact. Never mind that Espinoza could be an ace someday.
What people have forgotten all along is that the Red Sox desperately needed a starting pitcher at the time they made the deal in mid-July. Arguably, they needed two starters. (Somehow, Clay Buchholz came to the rescue in the second half.)
What everyone had more reason to wonder, though, is whether the Sox judged Pomeranz’s longterm health well enough. That’ll be an ongoing question, too.
Because he arrived in spring training on a delayed schedule after receiving a stem-cell shot in the winter. He started the season on the disabled list, and the little he pitched in spring training did not look good.
Then, voila. Tuesday. Optimism.
“Just the overall power was very encouraging to see tonight from Drew,” Sox manager John Farrell said.
Pomeranz is very much a feel pitcher. But the perception all along was that he wasn’t physically feeling good.
What reason did anyone have to think he all of a sudden would be?
“Every day is different out there when you're warming up,” Pomeranz said. “Today I was feeling really good, I was letting it fly out there a little bit. I was trying to be aggressive. I was getting good extension, the ball was coming out so it didn't matter if I was throwing 90 like I was at the end or 95, it was still coming out how it needed to come out. It really makes it easier on me when I get the timing right.”