Drew and his brother Stuart learned more about pitching from their father, Mike Pomeranz, who lettered four years at Ole Miss, than from any other coach.
At Ole Miss, Drew's father, an infielder, was a teammate of Chuck Bartlett, a future MLB scout. (Bartlett later scouted and signed Drew to his first contract. See below.) When Drew was 11, Mike taught him and his brother to throw that knuckle-curve because "it doesn't put as much strain on your arm."
In 2003, Drew's older brother Stuart was drafted out of high school by the Cardinals in the second round. He pitched for five years in their farm system.
Drew's baseball family roots go even further back than his father, as his great grandfather was Garland Buckeye, a major league pitcher in the 1920s.
At Collierville High School in Tennessee, Drew posted a career record of 20-6 with 11 saves and a 2.21 ERA, striking out 312 in 181 innings. He also played basketball for a couple of years before graduating in 2007.
In 2007, the Rangers chose Drew in the 12th round of the draft. But instead of going pro, he accepted a baseball scholarship to the University of Mississippi.
In 2010 with Ole Miss, Pomeranz went 9-2 with a 2.24 ERA in 16 starts. He struck out 139 and walked 49 in 100 2/3 innings of work, holding the opposition to a .195 average against. He led the league in ERA, strikeouts and opponent batting average. And he was named Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year for 2010.
In 2011, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Pomeranz as the 4th-best prospect in the Indians' farm system. After moving to the Rockies organization in July 2011, the book had Drew as the #1 prospect in their farm system in the spring of 2012.
Pomeranz doesn't talk much. He is quiet and has a great work ethic. He is always looking for a way to get better.
Drew is a real student of pitching. His craft is the one thing he will talk about, showing a real passion for pitching.
October 14, 2011: Police arrested Pomeranz for disturbing the peace in Oxford, Mississippi. Oxford police arrested Pomeranz at 1:25 a.m. He was released on a cash bond at 4:40 a.m.
Drew was pleased to leave Colorado after the 2013 season. It killed his curveball.
"I didn’t have a curveball for two years," Pomeranz said in 2015. "I had one pitch, and it was a fastball and it cut most of the time. They tried to get me to throw changeups and they would cut. My curveballs would bounce because if I threw them at all up, they would hang, so I would have to bounce it. I would throw the two-seam and it would cut, too. Bigger curveballs are no good. Plus, there was some weird things going on with the 75-pitch count.”
Getting out of the rarified air gave him back his breaking ball, which he’s refined into multiple options since he started throwing it at 11 years old.
Drew had been traded before -- twice, in fact. He knew the signs. When the big left-hander returned from a December 2015 trip to Texas for a checkup on his surgically repaired shoulder, the missed calls from his agent and from members of the A's front office were a dead giveaway.
Pomeranz was headed to San Diego -- in exchange for Yonder Alonso and Marc Rzepczynski. For Pomeranz, it was a chance to revitalize his career, one which had stalled in Colorado before some brief and inconsistent success in Oakland. For the Padres, it meant taking a chance on a starter with a high ceiling -- or, at the very least, a live bullpen arm.
Suffice it to say, the move has worked out for Pomeranz, and it's worked out for San Diego. Only Randy Jones in 1975 (1.58) and Jake Peavy in 2007 (1.64) -- arguably the two best pitchers in franchise history -- have begun a season for the Padres with a lower ERA than Pomeranz's 1.70 mark through nine starts through the end of May 2016.
"I just forget about Colorado; it was a really weird time there," Pomeranz said. "The opportunity I had in Oakland let me reset everything. I had a chance to figure some things out. Then I come here, obviously there was going to be opportunity. They gave me a shot to start, I stumbled upon a cutter and everything has just fallen the way it should."
Pomeranz has prospered under the watchful eye of Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley. "Balsley watches you, he sees how you attack guys, he sees who you are as a pitcher and he helps you along that path," Pomeranz said. "He's not trying to direct you toward his path. Some teams want to put their stamp on you when you're young. They want everyone to throw and be a cookie-cutter.
"Bals is very knowledgeable about pitching, and he'll give you tidbits here and there -- this could help you a lot, that could help you a lot. 'Try this, try that.' He just kind of helps you along your path. That's what works. We're all here for a reason. We all made it here because we're talented on our own."
And Padres manager Andy Green said, "When we saw his curveball in Spring Training 2016, and encouraged him to throw it more often, I think it was pretty obvious right away he was a really good option for us [in the rotation]. From there, he's exceeded all expectations." (Cassavell - MLB.com - 5/26/16)
Drew's Boston teammates call him "BIG SMOOTH".
"I can't remember if it was David Price or Rick Porcello or maybe a combination of the both of the two, but when I got over here, they wanted to give me a nickname and they came up with this one and it just kind of stuck," Pomeranz said. "Nobody really knew about it outside the team. Everyone knows about it now."
June 2010: The Indians drafted Pomeranz in the first round. He was the 5th overall pick overall—behind only Bryce Harper (Nats), Jameson Taillon (Pirates), Manny Machado (Orioles), and Christian Colon (Royals). (Editor's note: And ahead of Chris Sale and Matt Harvey.)
Drew signed with scout Chuck Bartlett on August 16 (the deadline) for a bonus of $2.65 million.
July 30, 2011: The Indians acquired P Ubaldo Jimenez from the Rockies by sending Pomeranz, righthander Alex White, along with minor league pitcher Joe Gardner and first baseman Matt McBride, to Colorado. At the time, Pomeranz and White were considered cornerstones of Cleveland's future rotation.
December 10, 2013: The A's sent LHP Brett Anderson and $2 million to the Rockies, acquiring Pomeranz and pitcher Chris Jensen.
December 2, 2015: The Padres traded LHP Marc Rzepczynski and 1B Yonder Alonso to Athletics for Pomeranz, LHP Jose Torres, and a player to be named later.
- January 15, 2016: The Padres and Pomeranz avoided arbitration, agreeing on a one-year deal for $1.35 million.
July 14, 2016: The Padres traded Drew to the Red Sox for minor league RHP Anderson Espinosa.
- January 25, 2017: Pomeranz and the Red Sox avoided arbitration, agreeing on a one-year, $4.45 million deal.
- Jan 12, 2018: Drew and the Red Sox avoided arbitration, agreeing on a one-year deal worth $8.5 million.
|Birth City:||Collierville, TN|
|Draft:||Indians #1 - 2010 - Out of Univ. of Mississippi|
Pomeranz has a lively 89-95 mph four-seam FASTBALL with decent movement to his arm-side. His 88-92 mph two-seam SINKER that doesn't move much, either, displaying surprisingly little armside run. He also started showing an 86-88 mph CUTTER in 2016, just a bit. He has a devastating 78-81 mph knuckle-CURVEBALL (or spike-curve) that is a 12-to-6, nose-to-toes, swing-and-miss pitch that gets him Ks or groundballs. That curve is a major out-pitch when he commands it, gaining a 70 grade on the 20-80 scouting scale. He also has a fair 80-83 mph CHANGEUP that has backspin, but he rarely throws it. (Spring, 2018)
He can place his fastball on either side of the plate and consistently low in the strike zone. He can get it in on a righthanded hitter's fists. And his delivery is so smooth his already-mid-90s heater looks 3 or 4 mph faster.
Drew says he rarely throws a changeup, instead just changing the speed on his fastball. It's a third speed on his fastball, he says. And, if you plot changeup movement in with his four-seam and two-seam movement, you can see that is really the best way to describe his approach to his non-curveball pitches. It's a change of speeds, not a change in the way the pitch (fastball) moves. (June, 2017)
- 2016 Season Pitch Usage: Pomeranz used his 4-seam Fastball 39% of the time; 2-seam Sinker only 4%; Changeup 6.7%; Curveball 38.7% of the time; and Cutter 11.5% of the time.
2017 Pitch Usage: Drew uses his 4-seam Fastball 46% of the time, his 2-seam Sinker 9% of the time; his Changeup just 1.5%; the Curve 37% of the time; and his Cutter 6.4% of the time.
Drew picked up his curveball at age nine.
Pomeranz's father, Mike, learned a unique curveball grip from a coach when he was in high school. He held one seam with the knuckle of his index finger and flicked the ball forward. There was no cranking of the elbow or wrist, not even the usual turning of the hand so that the side of the pinky faces the batter and snaps down upon release. Drew would perfect the technique while sitting on a couch, flicking the ball into the air over and over.
Pitching in the conventional fastball-first style, Pomeranz bounced from Cleveland to Colorado to Oakland to San Diego before a 2016 spring training meeting with Padres manager Andy Green and GM A.J. Preller changed his career. They told him statistics showed that the more he threw his curveball, the better he pitched. They told him to feature the pitch.
"I just kept throwing curveball after curveball, and guys weren't hitting it," Pomeranz says. "They kept swinging over it and taking it for a strike. So I just kept throwing it more and more."
Drew says, "Growing up or in college, somebody (on the other team) would call you a thumber or yell at you for throwing so many curveballs. But now I've gotten to the point where I'm like, 'I don't care. If you're not hitting it, you can call me anything you want.'"
One of the stranger elements to his curve is its low spin rate -- just 2,142 rpm, a function of his knuckleball-like flick upon release. (Tom Verducci - Sports Illustrated - 5/29/2017)
2016 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 38.3% of the time; Sinker 3.8% of the time; Change 6.9%; Slider .5% of the time; Curve 39.2%; and Cutter 11.3% of the time.
Drew has some funk in his lefthanded delivery. The oddest part of his delivery is a right wrist cock he employs after separating his hands from his glove. Because of the cock, Pomeranz's glove position at release point and finish is faced down rather than up.
He gets very good extension, helping his curve and fastball play up.
Pomeranz, in an effort to improve his health and command outcomes, the lefty went to the stretch exclusively in 2014.
“Now I can just pick my leg up, get the ball out, and throw it,” Pomeranz said.
Drew discussed his devastating knuckle-curveball, his signature pitch:
"Instead of twisting it, I spike it with the point of my finger," Pomeranz said. "And I flick it straight forward. There's no break action. I just push it off the seam. It's like a two-seamer. Since your arm naturally pronates [rotates down], it's like a screwball almost. Sometimes when I'm cutting it, it's like a slider straight down. It's a true knuckle-curve the way I throw it. A lot of people spike it and still flick their wrist, but I don't."
Pomeranz says he learned the spike curve from his Dad, sitting in on the teaching his father, Mike was giving to brother Stuart, who is four years older than Drew.
"Somebody taught my Dad in high school and he taught us," said Pomeranz, explaining that the spike-curve puts less strain on the arm than other breaking pitches. "My Dad started showing my brother and of course, the four-year-younger brother wants to know how to do it, too."
It looks like Drew is throwing batting practice fastballs with his easy motion. And he has deception in his delivery that makes it hard for hitters to track the ball out of his hand. But he has a stabbing motion in the back of his delivery that costs him control.
His biggest weaknesses are his lack of command and lack of command. Though with his stuff, Pomeranz needs control more than precise command.
He pitches to contact a lot.
Pomeranz wants the ball in the big games. They don't phase him. He has impressive mound presence and poise. He is mature on the mound and very focused. Nothing wavers him at all.
- Drew can start a game slowly, but if you don't get to him early, you are not going to get to him.
He has a powerful arm and quiet confidence.
"I think with him [Pomeranz] it's being able to use the secondary stuff and not be so reliant on the fastball," Rockies' manager Walt Weiss said. "It sounds like he's done that . . . mixed in his secondary stuff, a little more efficient. He's always had the deception, and I think a good finish to his fastball, and I think that makes it tough on hitters." (6/27/13)
The biggest change in Pomeranz's game upon arriving in San Diego in 2016 was the club's insistence that he throw more curveballs. It wasn't just a small uptick. He had thrown the pitch 41.4 percent of the time in 2016, as of June 1st. Only Rich Hill of the A's has thrown a breaking pitch more frequently. It's also in stark contrast to the rest of Pomeranz's career.
"It's one of the best left-handed curveballs I've seen in a while," Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley said. "I don't like to compare and say, 'His is as good as Kershaw's.' But his falls into that category as a top-notch curveball. It's impossible -- but it appears it picks up speed and spin, the closer it gets to the hitter."
After they squared off on May 1, 2016, Kershaw called Pomeranz's curveball "one of the best I've seen in a long time." High praise, considering the source.
Manager Andy Green believes it's the late break that allows Pomeranz enough deception to throw his curve so frequently. Balsley believes it's the precision. They're both right.
But in Pomeranz's eyes, he's throwing three separate pitches—all curveballs—to comprise that 41 percent. He's always thrown a slow looping curve which ends up in the zone. Pomeranz calls that his "get-me-over" hook. This season, he's established the back-door breaking ball to right-handers, which appears to be outside but sneaks back across the plate. And Pomeranz has now perfected the curve that bites hard down and in on righties and away from lefties.
Pomeranz has honed all three of those under the watchful eye of Balsley, who gave Drew the freedom to throw them in any count. Then there's the cutter—a pitch that came about during a simple game of catch with former Minor League teammate Travis Higgs during the offseason. Pomeranz noticed some late movement on Higgs' throws and asked, "What was that?"
Higgs showed Pomeranz how to grip the pitch and where to apply pressure. Shortly thereafter, it became a long-sought-after third pitch in Pomeranz's arsenal. "I had all the pieces there," Pomeranz said. "It was about organizing them, coming into spring. I was feeling pretty good, so I asked Andy to give me a shot at starting."
The first-year skipper obliged. Pomeranz didn't make his first start until mid-March, but it soon became clear he'd be worth the most to San Diego in the starting five. He wrapped up a rotation spot on the final day of camp—and since then, he has developed into a bona fide All-Star candidate.
"When we saw his curveball in Spring Training and encouraged him to throw it more often, I think it was pretty obvious right away he was a really good option for us [in the rotation]," Green said. "From there, he's exceeded all expectations." (Cassavell - MLB.com - 5/26/16)
- Drew long has dominated lefthanded hitters, important since Fenway is a lefthanded hitters’ park. But in 2016, he dominated righthanders as well.
“This spring, Darren Balsley got him to buy into getting his fastball in on righthanders, and as he was doing that, he came up with a cutter,” said one Padres front office official. “The two pitches completely changed him. Finding a lefthanded pitcher who can locate his fastball in on right-handers and bury them with a cutter is rare, a guy like Jon Lester.” (Peter Gammons - MLB Network)
- As of the start of the 2018 season, Drew has a career record of 42-42 with 3.67 ERA, 621 strike outs, having allowed 74 home runs and 566 hits in 636 innings.
- Drew has some problems holding runners on base, especially for a lefthander.
March–April 2010: A pull in his pectoral muscle hampered Pomeranz's control a bit.
- August 20-September 5, 2011: Drew underwent an emergency appendectomy and was on the D.L.
July 23-September 6, 2013: Pomeranz went on the D.L. with left bicep tendinitis.
June 17-July 13, 2014: Drew was on the D.L. with a fractured right hand. He broke the hand when he punched a chair after a loss to the Rangers. "I just let my emotions take over me, and I did something stupid," Pomeranz told reporters. "It sucks. Obviously, I didn't mean for it to happen. It sucks because I want to play, I want to pitch. I'm trying to win games and help the team out. Obviously, I'm not helping the team out when I do something stupid like that."
May 19-June 3, 2015: Pomeranz was on the D.L. with a shoulder injury—tightness.
October 21, 2015: Pomeranz underwent successful clavicle resection surgery on his throwing shoulder.
2016: Pomeranz had a forearm injury and a stem cell injection in the offseason before 2017 spring training.
- April 1-11, 2017: Drew began the year on the 10-day DL with a left flexor strain.
- 2018 Spring Training: Pomeranz underwent an MRI on that revealed a mild flexor tendon strain in his left elbow.