Pomeranz yet to rediscover proper delivery
Young lefty has disjointed three-inning start at Colorado Springs
COLORADO SPRINGS -- Left-hander Drew Pomeranz didn't feel like himself Thursday afternoon. That was a tough place to be, since the Rockies sent him down to Triple-A Colorado Springs nearly two weeks ago to find his delivery and, ultimately, find himself as a Major League pitcher.Admittedly unable to loosen up or keep the ball down in the strike zone on an afternoon makeup game before a sparse crowd at Security Service Field, Pomeranz needed 78 pitches to navigate three disjointed innings of a 7-4 loss to Oklahoma City. Pomeranz was hurt by two errors on third baseman Brendan Harris on plays that would have ended innings. Just two of the six runs off Pomeranz were earned. Those were the first runs off him in four Minor League starts this year. He struck out four against one walk, to the game's leadoff hitter, and threw strikes on nearly 70 percent of his pitches, but his location was just off enough that he dealt with a maddening number of foul balls instead of successful put-away pitches. But no statistical detail has anything to do with whether Pomeranz, who went 0-2 but with a respectable 4.70 ERA on a Rockies staff full of pitchers with less-positive numbers, moved any closer to his assignment. The Rockies want him to regain the over-the-top motion and power that led them to trade former ace Ubaldo Jimenez to the Indians for him. Maybe it was the 17-day period he was not allowed to pitch in a game after the trade (he couldn't be officially dealt until he was in pro ball a full year). It could have been the late-season appendectomy before he made it to the Majors for four late-season starts last year. But Pomeranz, 23, has been throwing pitches with left-to-right cutting action. The Rockies felt robbed him of potential dominance. Disappointed over how the performance went, it was difficult for Pomeranz to peg exactly where he stood on the development scale. "I don't know," Pomeranz said. "I wasn't really worried about my first two outings. I was just out there trying to work on mechanics. That's what I was told why I'm here. I'm not here to do anything other than fix my mechanics. My mechanics were pretty good those first few games. It probably has a lot to do with doing well. We'll see next time. "I feel fine. I feel great. My bullpens have gone real well. Today was weird. I don't know why I couldn't get loose in the first inning. After that I felt I was on top of the ball, the ball was straight, and I started to throw more strikes toward the end. I don't know. I feel pretty good." Those are the words of a man trying to figure out what he needs to do. On Thursday, he was more on his own than usual. Pitching coach Bo McLaughlin was away from the team attending a graduation ceremony for one of his sons. Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd watched. The club wasn't swayed by Pomeranz's first two starts since he was sent down -- scoreless outings at Memphis and at home against New Orleans. And O'Dowd wasn't particularly bothered by Thursday. O'Dowd gave Pomeranz high marks for competitiveness, while seeing for himself that more work is needed. "Today was just a step in his development program," O'Dowd said. "He'll have to determine if it's a step forward or a step back, depending upon what he does with this and what he does with his bullpen. Every player's development program is dependent upon that player, whether they get it, how quickly they make the adjustments, how they apply it moving forward." Pomeranz had a scoreless start at Double-A Tulsa to open the season, since the Rockies didn't need him the first time through the rotation. Once on the big club, three of his five starts didn't last five innings. The Rockies, languishing at 16-27 mainly because of inconsistency in the rotation, thought he was competitive enough to survive. But the club wants more. The Indians had made Pomeranz the fifth overall Draft pick in 2010. He was the key to the Rockies dealing All-Star in Jimenez. The Rockies also received current rotation member Alex White, Colorado Springs utility man Matt McBride and Double-A Tulsa pitcher Joe Gardner. Before Colorado sent Pomeranz down on May 12, they showed him split-screen video of his arm action and motion before he joined the Rockies and how he was looking at that point. Until he gets back to the "before" picture, he'll not be in their rotation. "I'm not a pitching coach, but there were a lot of things that were different -- taking the ball out of his glove, getting it up, his arm speed, the position of his arm, how his lower body worked, where he finished out front," O'Dowd said. O'Dowd said McLaughlin, organization Minor League pitching instructor Doug Linton and Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca all are part of the project of returning Pomeranz's delivery to where they think it should be. Pomeranz shows a level of trust by not complaining, although he's still searching for the understanding that can arrive only with the proper delivery. "I'm pretty even about it," he said. "Obviously I'd like to be up there. Who wouldn't like to be up there? It's not up to me. If they want me down here, I'm here doing what I'm told to do."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.