Tomase: Remember when the Drew Pomeranz deal looked terrible? Not anymore

John Tomase
September 14, 2017 - 6:58 pm
Drew Pomeranz

Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports


Sentences I never expected to type: where would the Red Sox be without Drew Pomeranz?

When Dave Dombrowski acquired the left-hander from the Padres last July, I hated the deal, and I wasn't alone. Dombrowski acquired Pomeranz for right-hander Anderson Espinoza, his best pitching prospect, and it felt like a substantial overpay. The Padres couldn't have been selling higher on Pomeranz, a former setup man who had just completed an All-Star first half in San Diego.

The news only got worse when Pomeranz broke down late last season, necessitating a shift to the bullpen. By that point, we already knew the Padres had withheld medical information from the Red Sox, earning a rebuke from MLB and a suspension for general manager A.J. Preller.

When Pomeranz received a stem cell shot this winter, fans could be forgiven for assuming the worst. Those worries only intensified when he wasn't ready to start throwing on time at the start of spring training.

But something strange and unexpected happened on Pomeranz's road to Bustville. He started pitching. Really well.

On Thursday, he reminded the Red Sox of just how much trouble they'd be in without him by beating his former team, the Oakland A's, in what has become a fairly typical outing: six innings, five hits, one run, three walks, five strikeouts. He wasn't particularly efficient (111 pitches, 69 strikes), but he got the job done in the 6-2 win.

His record now stands at 16-5 and his ERA at 3.28. He's tied for the league lead in wins with teammate Chris Sale and Indians ace Corey Kluber -- the two Cy Young favorites -- and he also ranks in the top 10 in ERA, winning percentage (.762), strikeouts (166), and strikeouts per nine (9.37).

With his last pitch on Thursday, Pomeranz blew a high fastball past Matt Olson with two on and two outs to keep the score 1-1. The normally subdued left-hander pumped his fist as he left the mound, and the Red Sox struck for two runs in the bottom of the frame to make him the winner. Already a challenge because of his fastball-curveball-cutter repertoire, Pomeranz added a first-pitch changeup to the mix on Thursday to keep the A's off balance.

As things stand now, he's pitching like one of the 10 or 12 best starters in the American League, and who saw that coming?

"You start to look at the numbers as they are and the things we have to go by, and maybe sometimes people don't put a lot of weight into wins and losses and ERA, but you know what, they're meaningful," said manager John Farrell. "So he starts to put himself in a very small group around the American League just by, you look at the hits allowed, you look at the runs given up, the quality starts, the run of games he's been on for the better part of three months or more. He's been maybe our most consistent starter in our rotation for the better part of these three or four months."

I didn't in a million years see this coming, but credit to Dombrowski for sticking to his guns when confronted with a pair of ugly choices last summer -- either keep Pomeranz and risk acquiring someone who's damaged goods, or reverse the deal and miss your one chance to upgrade last year's rotation.

It looks like holding on to Pomeranz and then guiding him through his winter rehab was worth the wait.

"That's for you guys to decide," Pomeranz said when asked where he rates among AL starters. "I'm just worried about going out and getting a chance to win every five days."

The playoffs present an entirely new challenge, of course, and that's where Pomeranz will ultimately prove himself. As things stand now, he has earned the right to take the ball in Game 2, leapfrogging defending Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello, who could easily open the playoffs in the bullpen.

Did anyone see this coming? I know I didn't.