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Published: Monday, 3/7/2011

Pomeranz makes it look easy for Tribe

BY BUD SHAW
(CLEVELAND) PLAIN DEALER

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Drew Pomeranz stood by the visitor's dugout -- arms folded, glove on his head, almost yawning -- as if he'd done this all a hundred times before instead of exactly twice.

His two innings in relief against the Colorado Rockies Sunday might as well have been an intrasquad game back at the University of Mississippi. Six batters, six outs. Three strikeouts. A fastball that overpowered. A buckling curve.

"It's not supposed to look that easy," manager Manny Acta said as Pomeranz waited to talk to reporters after the Indians' 3-1 loss to Colorado. "But when you are that talented, sometimes you can make it look that easy."

Based on that talent, the Indians made Pomeranz the fifth choice in the 2010 draft. He may make one more Cactus League appearance before he goes underground -- relatively speaking -- to get stretched out for his first minor-league season.

The Indians have seen enough to validate the opinion that led to making him their highest pick since 1992. That was the year they selected right-hander Paul Shuey second overall.

There's not much mileage in the Shuey comparison and not only because so many years have passed. It doesn't really work beyond their shared high draft status. One guy pitched with such a violent motion you didn't know if he were throwing a baseball or wrestling an alligator. The other guy is Pomeranz.

Shuey's delivery was like watching a mosh pit. Not coincidentally, he made almost yearly trips to the disabled list throughout his career. Pomeranz's motion, by comparison, is soft jazz. Except for the exploding fastball at the end.

"You mean smooth?" he asked when someone wondered about his delivery. "No reason to be rushing."

Pomeranz says he was amped up in his first inning of work against Colorado. You couldn't tell, other than he went to full counts on left fielder Ryan Spilborghs and catcher Chris Iannetta. He retired Spilborghs on a sharp grounder to short and struck out Iannetta. He struck out two more Colorado hitters in the eighth, the second on a slow curve.

He calls it a "spike curve." He learned to throw it from his father when he was 11. His dad, a four-year letterman at Ole Miss, actually taught it to his other son, Stuart, who is playing this year in the Dodgers' organization. But Drew was all ears.

"Somebody showed it to my dad back in high school, and he taught it to my brother," Pomeranz said. "And the four-year younger brother wanted to do it too."

When he throws his curve, Pomeranz flicks the baseball. Unlike a traditional curve, it's not a strain on the elbow, which should bode well for longevity. Acta and pitching coach Tim Belcher noticed that hitters lay off when Pomeranz's curve is out of the zone because there's so much break to it.

In college, Pomeranz primarily threw his fastball and curve. How often did he throw his change-up?

"Maybe twice a game," he said. "Maybe. I threw a lot of fastballs in college. I've been throwing a lot of fastballs here. Why throw anything else until they hit it?"

The Indians want Pomeranz to work on his change-up in the minors. Not that they believe he'll need it to get by at that level. "But here it's the pitch he'll probably have to develop to become dominant," Acta said.

Pomeranz's fastball is in the 91-94 range consistently and sometimes hits 95-96. He tinkered with the change in college, but a combination of factors put it on the shelf. He didn't trust it anywhere near as much as his fastball and curve. By throwing it less, he lost the feel for it.

The Indians won't allow that to happen in the minors. As good as Pomeranz looks throwing his fastball and curve, he knows it's not enough. And the Indians know -- after years of missed draft picks -- that Pomeranz and 2009 No. 1 draft pick Alex White are the keys to returning to contention in the AL Central and staying there.

For complete story, visit The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer.



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