Drew Pomeranz (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Photo)
FORT MYERS, Fla. — It was one quick comment at the end of an excruciatingly long spring training game, but it warranted some attention.
Six starters, five spots. John Farrell surfaced a scenario.
“I think a couple of different ways we could go with that,” the Red Sox manager said. “That’s one possibility. Not knowing who that one would be to go to the bullpen. I think more importantly we’ve got to get everybody back up to game speed until we start to maybe address or consider those options.”
First things first. It is very clear one of those players helping construct those options, Drew Pomeranz, has absolutely no interest in entertaining one of those scenarios Farrell is suggesting — heading back tot he bullpen.
“I’m confident enough in myself,” Pomeranz said. “People say bullpen, whatever. I made the All-Star team as a starter, not as a reliever. I had a good year as a reliever the year before and maybe I can fall back in 10 years, hopefully. Right now I just feel like this is the beginning for me.
“Look at my first half last year. I was one of the top few in the National League. Why would I want to go to the bullpen. Just because I’ve done well people are going to say, ‘He should go to the bullpen. He would be better there.’ At the end of the day I’m here to help the team no matter what, but I fought my way back to being a starter and I’m not going to give up on it very easily.”
At this very, very early point in spring training, Pomeranz sits smack dab in the midst of those aforementioned options. Ironically, it was almost exactly a year ago he did everything to not have anything to do with these kind of uncertainties.
As Pomeranz was cruising on into the spring training games with the Padres last February, the promise of giving him a chance to make the rotation was increasingly becoming a hollow one.
So, the lefty decided it was time for the rubber to meet the road. A meeting with San Diego manager Andy Green was requested, executed and, ultimately, looked upon as what Pomeranz is banking on being his fork in the road.
“Last year was just kind of a fight all around for me,” he said. “I got to the point where I want it so bad, I thought we understood each other and clearly we didn’t understand. From that point forward if I had anything I didn’t understand I could walk into his office and say, ‘What’s going on?’ and he was honest with me.
“I’ve done this long enough that I feel like I know what I need to do to be successful and it’s kind of frustrating sometimes. You want things to go one way and they don’t, you have to keep yourself motivated. Fight for what you want. This game is a fight. No one is going to hand you anything. You have to go out and get what you want. That just kick-started the whole year for me, and maybe my career.”
This was Pomeranz’s turning point. No meeting. No All-Star Game. Probably no chance to become a starting pitcher for the Padres or Red Sox.
“What we had discussed was I was coming in as a starter and at the end of camp if I didn’t get a spot I would go to the bullpen. That was my understanding,” he remembered. “Then when they put the charts up and it said one inning, and day off, and then ‘Pomeranz one inning’ I was like, ‘What’s going on here?’ You’ve been around long enough to know if you’re being groomed as a starter or a reliever.
“I asked him and he said, ‘There’s definitely innings available to give you a chance to start.’ I told him, ‘I want it. I’m going for it. If you decide at the end of camp that I’m not good enough than you can put me in the bullpen.’ Immediately they gave me more innings. They changed the chart that day to put me at two innings and I got back on that progression.”
Odds are that, despite these options Farrell speaks of, Pomeranz won’t need one of these get-togethers.
Pomeranz and Steven Wright haven’t thrown live batting practices yet, with the lefty easing back into the new season after receiving stem cell injections in his elbow. But, according to both Farrell and pitching coach Carl Willis, both pitchers are schedule to make their six spring training starts.
And, as president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski insinuated in the offseason, if all six are healthy, it would seem Pomeranz joins Wright as the favorites to land in the rotation to start the season.
What a difference a year makes.
“You go every year fighting for a spot, and this year is a little different because I had a really good year and figured some things out,” Pomeranz said. “I’m coming into camp in the position I want to be in and am able to take it a little slower. I think it’s a good thing because it will keep me more rested. I think it will only benefit me, the position I’m in.”