03/07/11 4:35 PM ET
Pomeranz showing confidence in first camp
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
Mike Pomeranz was teaching his son, Stuart, how to flick the signature spike curve that is quickly becoming a family tradition. Since the pitch does not put as much strain on the arm as other breaking balls, Drew was allowed to sit in on the lesson.
"Somebody taught my dad in high school and he taught us," said Pomeranz, who is now a highly-touted pitching prospect for the Indians. "My dad started showing my brother and of course, the four-year-younger brother wants to know how to do it, too."
Early in camp -- more than a decade after that backyard pitching tutorial -- Pomeranz has looked perfectly at home on the mound for the Tribe. In Sunday's 3-1 loss to the Rockies, his curveball was dancing through the strike zone, making Major League hitters look overmatched.
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Pomeranz has made it look easy, too.
"When you're that talented," Indians manager Manny Acta said, "you can make it look that easy. He's got a very nice arm and he's effortless. That ball just sneaks up on hitters."
Acta was referring to Pomeranz's fastball, which was clocked between 93-96 mph against Colorado. Pomeranz has a smooth windup and delivery that can make the heater seem to explode from his left hand. While at the University of Mississippi, there were times he could get away with sticking mostly with that pitch.
"Why throw anything else until they hit it, you know?" Pomeranz said with a shrug of the shoulders "That's how I feel about it."
Between the fastball and that spike curve -- thrown by digging the index finger into a seam and then "flicking" the baseball, as Pomeranz put it -- the Indians needed little convincing in taking the pitcher with the fifth overall selection in last June's First-Year Player Draft.
Pomeranz was Cleveland's highest Draft selection since 1992 and immediately became one of the club's top prospects. If everything goes according to plan, the big southpaw could be fitted for an Indians uniform as early as 2012. This year, Pomeranz is likely to open with one of the Tribe's Class A affiliates.
The challenge this season for Pomeranz will be to fine-tune his changeup.
"In college, he probably didn't have to use the changeup too much," Acta said. "But that's probably going to be the pitch that he's going to have to go down there and develop -- to be dominant up here, basically."
How often did Pomeranz throw the changeup in college?
"Maybe twice a game," Pomeranz said. "Maybe."
The general thought is that pitchers can rarely get away with only two pitches in the Major Leagues.
"Yeah, I mean, that's what they say," Pomeranz said.
Spoken like a pitcher who has supreme confidence in his fastball and curveball.
It is not hard to understand why Pomeranz would feel that way. In his junior year at Mississippi, all the lefty did was go 9-2 with a 2.24 ERA, piling up 139 strikeouts over 100 2/3 innings. So far this spring, he has struck out five hitters in only three innings of work.
"I faced Hideki Matsui," said Pomeranz, referring to his first Cactus League appearance against the A's. "You grow up watching guys like that. I faced him and struck him out. That was pretty cool."
The way Pomeranz put it, though, the feat hardly seemed to excite him much. He speaks slowly with a slight hint of his Tennessee roots. On the field, Pomeranz's mannerisms are calm and collected. His walk off the diamond after an inning is relaxed and void of emotion.
Against the Rockies, Pomeranz said he was a little excited on the hill.
"I was a little amped up that first inning," he said. "It was just the adrenaline from being here, throwing to big league guys and stuff."
It was impossible to tell from watching him throw.
"Yeah, I'm pretty much the same all the time," he said, allowing himself to grin. "It helps out a lot, too. Don't get too high. Don't get too low."
This spring, which is Pomeranz's first in camp with the big league club, the pitcher has spent time observing those around him. That is how he is built. Learning by watching others is Pomeranz's preferred method.
As a kid, though, Pomeranz did not have a favorite pitcher.
"Not really," he said. "Nobody in particular."
The pitcher he and his brother Stuart -- now a pitcher in the Dodgers system -- learned the most from was their father, Mike, who lettered four years at Ole Miss.
And there was only one pitcher Pomeranz wanted to be like as a big leaguer.
"I just wanted to be myself," he said.