BOSTON — The velocity probably will only come with time, or maybe more rest. But the curveball could come overnight.
Twenty of the 81 pitches Drew Pomeranz threw in Friday night’s 4-3 Red Sox loss to the Rays were curves, per BrooksBaseball.net. There were seven swings and not one of them was a whiff. Remember, now, we’re talking about a pitcher who has made his living on his hook.
“Today I kind of struggled to make pitches all night,” Pomeranz said. “I made some good pitches. … It’s frustrating, but I’m out there battling, trying to make pitches. It’s just that my curveball wasn’t there tonight.”
Is it just that, though? The pitch may not have been as sharp as it can be, but the Rays may also have had a jump on it.
Manager Alex Cora hinted at the possibility after the game, and pitching coach Dana LeVangie confirmed the suspicion: the Sox think Pomeranz may have been tipping. They don’t know yet, and they’re going to go to the tape to check it out.
“That’s part of my gig, and I’m always going to look for that stuff and whoever takes,” LeVangie told NBC Sports Boston and the Herald. “Contact, squaring up fastballs, squaring up curveballs, you start to wonder.”
Said Cora: “It’s an adjustment, yeah, we’ll take a look at video and see if we can find something else more than health and mechanics.”
Health is the more obvious concern, although Pomeranz said he’s healthy. His fastball touched 92 mph on Friday, but he sat closer to 88. LeVangie thinks Pomeranz is still building up arm strength, and felt Pomeranz is progressing.
The Sox’ approach seems to be a belief that even without his best velocity, Pomeranz can be very good, as long as his full array of pitches is available — in particular, that curveball. Figuring out whether Pomeranz was indeed tipping, then, is an important part of a process of elimination. Because if the curveball is working well and he’s still not looking good, the Sox probably will have to consider whether Pomeranz could use more downtime. And one could argue, as well, that the only remedy for dipped velocity would be to build strength with reps, not to rest.
“You guys might not like what I’m going to say, but he continues to get better from the previous start,” LeVangie said. “The stuff was better. The stuff was crisper. There were some swings that we’re a little hesitant with what’s going on, because I didn’t think he pitched all that bad. For me, more importantly, he continues to make strides to get to the next level because he hit 92 mph, the ball played a bit better in the strike zone. There were some curious swings for me throughout the game that made me think about watching a little more video.”